Foreign Language for Elementary Schools

Foreign Language for Elementary Schools

Kelsey Whittier


In most countries around the world, children grow up learning at least two languages, if not more. Being bilingual creates infinite opportunities for one’s future. In this increasingly connected society it is important to be able to communicate with people of various backgrounds. The necessity of not only attaining the ability to interact with people of other cultures as well as being educated on their customs has increased significantly over the years. With the recent recession, and Massachusetts’s current unemployment rate of 6.9%, which is considerably higher than past years it is more important than ever for adolescents to develop their skills through education in order to achieve success in the future; therefore, the opportunity to begin learning a foreign language should be offered at the elementary school level.

An extensive amount of career fields—including marketing, law enforcement, government, and health care—are in need of bilingual individuals. To become a prime candidate for a career in many fields, it is ideal to be fluent in languages such as Spanish, Mandarin, or Arabic. When making business transactions, companies will save money by eliminating the necessity for a translator if their colleagues are fluent in the same language and familiar with the culture. Directly communicating in a common language will also increase efficiency and can even make companies more interested in completing transactions.

The younger a child is taught a second language the more fluent they will become in the future. A Newsweek article said, “A child taught a second language after the age of 10 or so is unlikely ever to speak it like a native.” To increase the difficulty of learning a new language at an inopportune time, students also have to deal with other pressures of high school on a day to day basis.

So what is stopping the school system from implementing foreign language studies on the elementary school level? The problem lies within the budget. Recent proposals have been made to eliminate foreign languages from the middle school level, prolonging the student’s capability to develop a second language. Introducing foreign languages at an earlier age will also allow students to decide which language they want to pursue in high school. They have more time to switch language courses if they decide the language they are taking is not what they want to study in the future.

2007 advocate for foreign language classes prior to high school, Brian Gay, said that “My exposure to foreign language in middle school helped me immensely with my subsequent academic career.” Many alumni like him have expressed their strong opinions to maintain foreign language classes for younger grades. Similarily, alumna Rebecca Horan who is currently  living in Madagascar for the School for International Training’s Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management program speaks fluent French on a daily basis to the Malagasy people and without her early introduction to foreign languages this outstanding opportunity would not be possible. She said, “I use [French] to tell stories to my family over dinner, to understand guest lecturers from conservation NGOs and the National Parks system, and to order a delicious sundae.”

Because of how beneficial these classes have been to students in the past, they should remain intact for future generations. These young pupils will be our future doctors, politicians, lawyers, and teachers; depriving them of this critical step in education would not only be erroneous to the student, but also to our society as whole.