Saturday, November 13, 2010

Budget cuts to schools hurt health, business and foreign languages.

Budget cuts to schools hurt health, business and foreign languages. [The Daily News Online]
"Foreign language instruction has never been a strong suit for American public education. There are relatively few strong foreign language offerings at the elementary and middle-school levels. Most high schools around the country offer basic introductory courses in just a couple of languages. Opportunities for language study have declined in recent years. John Schmid of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that, "From 1997 to 2008, the share of all U.S. elementary schools offering language classes fell from 31 percent to 25 percent, while middle schools dropped from 75 percent to 58 percent." These are the latest figures from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Applied Linguistics. But anecdotal evidence suggests that this trend has continued and may have accelerated with the recession."
"For both the student and the nation, the ability to speak another language is a difference maker as far as competing in the global market place. Indeed, it's small world. That's something most other nations have long recognized. Most country's in Europe and Asia make foreign language study compulsory from elementary school through high school."

Did you spot the grammar/punctuation error in the above? That's ironic in an article lamenting the decline of language study. Foreign language study definitely makes us more aware of accuracy in speaking and writing conventions. Hey, we all make typos and spelling errors - to err is human (and common in journalese). And there's no fun being a stuck up language maven. Language is all about flexibility (variability in systematicity, M Long) and the more language(s) you know the easier it becomes for the brain to adapt and enjoy linguistic variety through established systems, or even creatively disrupting them. To be blithely unaware and not even proficiently monolingual is pure disadvantage. To be obstinately monolingual and monocultural is dangerous.

Education systems of the world, do your job - for your people! Invest in languages education.

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