In his New York Times opinion piece earlier this year, What You (Really) Need to Know, Larry Summers suggests that foreign language acquisition is not essential for U.S. students, because English is becoming the lingua franca for business and the Internet, and idea that seems to be growing in popularity.
Is this a trend? Are business and government leaders really comfortable with the position that our 21st century educated American workforce has little requirement for knowledge of languages other than English?
We hear a lot from educators and researchers about language learning's cognitive benefits. Dan Fost wrote a nice summary a couple of years ago, How Global Language Learning Gives Students The Edge.
Anecdotally, we are hearing from students in computer programming and web design classes, that their world language learning experiences have given them a cognitive head start doing the complex cognitive work of learning and using a programming language. Similar comments are heard from musicians, especially working in jazz or other improvisational genres.
Yesterday a teacher described some students of hers, who had been learning in a QTalk classroom the prior year. Compared to other students, the QTalk students were "more confident speaking, and more eager to learn," and "they seemed to consider language learning as a fun activity." For schools struggling to improve test scores and reduce high school dropout rates, shouldn't there be a high value placed on classes that build a student's self-confidence and sense of achievement? Can we place a return on investment percentage on the fact that world language classes can be fun and keep students engaged, even those students who may struggle to succeed in other subjects?
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