Sunday, March 16, 2008

Should Spanish Be Required in Schools?

Many school curriculums require students to take a language. The requirement is so popular that not only does it exist on the college level, but also the middle school and even the elementary school level. It is assumed that it would be useful to learn another language besides one's native tongue, but many times young students ask themselves if they should really be required to learn other languages.

For instance, as a student begins to learn Spanish in elementary school, he or she may have a lot of fun with his or her teacher, doing colorful worksheets and playing nice games. They may win a couple of prizes for their great amount of participation in the class. However, these elementary students will only get a basic understanding of the language at most.

Then, as that same student progresses, he may find himself choosing to learn Spanish again to fulfill his or her middle school language requirement. He or she may perhaps gain a more intermediate understanding of the language. They may find out that now they can put a few conversations together. As they continue to learn Spanish for a few more semesters, they may understand how to write a few paragraphs in the language. However, students at this level will only rise to the medium levels of grasping the language. They may get all A's in the class and attain some good compliments from the teacher, but there's a good chance that they will lack fluency in the language.

A student reaching high school may choose to learn Spanish again in order to fulfill a language requirement there. Of course, this type of student will become more advanced in speaking Spanish. They will learn to say all kinds of things such as, "where is the bathroom?" They may learn the vocabulary for an entire wardrobe and the may get down the words that fit with everything they make for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When the teacher says "good morning" in class, happily they will be able to answer her back. Short verbs such "is" "are" and "where" will be effortless to them, but will they be fluent in the language? Probably not.

These students usually do not gain fluency as they learn Spanish because the classes are just not that advanced and they do not last for a long enough time. Often, in high school, a Spanish class can last for a year, but the class might not be taught daily. Even if the class is taught daily, the lure to take some real time off from learning Spanish during the summer months is just too enticing. If the process of learning Spanish is stopped during the three month summer period, it could cause a student to forget the majority of what he or she learned during class time.

Even in college, students normally will learn Spanish or another language only until they get the requirement filled. Then they stop all together, never becoming fluent even after investing all of that previous time in learning the language. Since most students do not become fluent in the language, later in life they find themselves being grateful for leaning Spanish only because they were in a Spanish restaurant one day and luckily they remembered how to read the menu.

Therefore, it would seem that it is not that useful to learn Spanish or another language as a school requirement. If is useful, it may only be to those students who combine learning language in a formal classroom with outside learning as well. Outside learning might include practicing speaking Spanish with a friend or attending Spanish cultural events. By combing different methods of learning Spanish, students might stand a better chance of becoming fluent.

By: Simon Tay, the author of Your Personal Development Website:

1 comment:

bilingual children's book man said...

I read your article with great interest! I publish bilingual a children's bilgual book series for children ages 3 to 8.
I believe bilingual education is very, very important in our school systems especially in the early school years U.S Census Bureau estimates ther are 44.3 million Hispanis living in the United States. By 2050 they extimate the growth to be 102.6 million, being the largest percentage of the country's population. It is becoming more and more apparent that bilingualism is becoming a factor in the work force.
That is whu I publish my books in English/Spanish. Children read the books in Engkish in one direction the flip the book over to read in Spanish. My lates book (and all future books) contains a Glossary/Glosario as a teaching/learning aid.
My website is: