Se Hablan Otras Idiomas?

Written By: Rachel Strong
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In the late 1990s, the Salem-Keizer school district in Oregon began requiring every student in its high schools to take at least two years of foreign language. (At that time, our choices were limited to Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and American Sign Language.) Many students took their two years and promptly forgot even simple phrases such as "Where is the bathroom?" and "Do you speak English?"

The school administrators were right in requiring their students to speak foreign (or not so foreign) languages. Being able to speak a foreign language will become even more important in the future.

In addition to the obvious help in being able to speak with classmates of differing backgrounds, learning a foreign language will open many doors.

First, it can help your student learn English better. Language is language, no matter what language it is, and exercising the language center in your brain will help in many ways (it may also help with math skills).

Being bilingual can also open up door for new experiences while your child is in school. Many foreign language classes have information on foreign exchange programs, which not only open doors for your student to experience new and different cultures, it also looks excellent on a college application.

Fluency-or even proficiency-will help your student get an after-school job, especially if the language studied is used in your area. Many jobs that teens can get now look highly on those who are able to speak the local minority group's language. Even today as adults, bilingual individuals are more highly looked-upon when compared with English-only applicants. The language desired can change, depending on the area.

Knowing another language will help our students compete in the world. By the time they graduate, most students in the world know two or three languages other than their native tongue.

But what language should your student study? Firstly, it should be a language your student has an interest in. If you want your student to study Spanish, but her dream is to aid African AIDS relief, Spanish might not be the best language to study.

You don't have to wait until your student is in middle or high school to learn another language. If you speak a second language yourself, start teaching your student that language today-even if they may not use it later in life. The best time to teach a new language is when they are learning the first. There are many language learning DVDs and software, and even the classic Memory Game can be found in multiple languages.

Language is an important part of life. America is not highly looked upon in other areas of the world, such as Europe. Many Europeans would look higher on America if we didn't expect others to speak our language when we are in their countries.

As a poster in my second and third-year Spanish class told us:

If you know two languages, you're bilingual. If you know three languages, you're trilingual. If you know one language, you're American.

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