Language And Learning: The Keys To Our Economy

Language And Learning: The Keys To Our Economy

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently said during an address to the Asia Society, “We must improve language learning and international education at all levels if our nation is to continue to lead in the global economy.”  He echoed President Obama’s claim that “international education … is the currency of the twenty-first century.”

Right now, 80% of students in Europe speak at least two languages.  Every student in China is learning English. Only 14% of U.S. students consider themselves bilingual.  With severe cutbacks in foreign language programs at schools across the country, educators are concerned that students will not remain competitive with their peers around the world.

Kids growing up today who speak and understand more than one language will have a significant employment leg-up on those who remain monolingual.  While it’s never too late to begin exposing children to foreign languages, scientists say the earlier the better, as young minds are hard-wired to learn up to three languages with ease.  Not only does it sharpen their language-learning skills, research proves that children who learn a second language before age six have a head start in school: they have superior reading, writing, analytical and social skills, as well as more extensive vocabularies than their monolingual classmates.

What options do parents have to help give their children a head start in terms of language development?

1.  Donate a language learning curriculum to your son or daughter’s class.

Early foreign language immersion expert, Julia Pimsleur Levine (daughter of the famous language teaching pioneer, Dr. Paul Pimsleur), has created the Little Pim line of products to help incorporate foreign languages into Preschool through Kindergarten/ Grade 1 classrooms.

2.  Immerse your family in another culture.

Make learning about another culture something you do as a family.  Have a cultural heritage day once a month.  Explore your own heritage.  Make a traditional meal and watch a movie in the same language with subtitles.

3.  Download free language resources.

There are free language programs for you to take advantage of.  Visit iTunes and search for “free (insert name of language) lessons.”  You can listen to these audio lessons with your child as you are driving instead of flipping through the station to find something.

The key to language immersion is to start early and be consistent.  It is never too early to start listening to language lessons with your child, and with that being said, it is never too late either.

What strategies or resources do you use or plan to use to immerse your child in a second language?