Learning foreign education in United States
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The debate on whether students in the United States should study foreign languages as part of their requirements before they graduate have been raging. There have been calls for all schools to start foreign language programs and ensure that every student learns at least one foreign language before they can qualify for graduation. The importance of studying foreign languages has gained significant importance in the last few decades owing to the increased interdependence between nations due to globalization. As such, interactions between people of different nations and continents have increased as people engage in business or as they work in organizations with diverse culture. In these interactions, one of the greatest barriers is communication as people come from different countries that speak different languages (Oaks). Communication barrier can also discourage qualified people from seeking employment opportunities outside their countries and this limits their scope of searching for a job. In addition to enhanced job opportunities, learning foreign language increases the chances of a graduate influencing the culture of other people. This argumentative essay will examine the views that have been raised relating to the importance of students learning a foreign language before they can qualify for graduation in the United States. The position of this paper is that when students are allowed to take a foreign language, they will be in a position to heavily influence the cultures of other people in various parts of the world.
The United States is one of the countries in the world that have managed to influence other countries in various ways. Being a super power, the country has adequate resources to dominate in almost all its undertakings (Wolf). In terms of business, United States has managed to dominate the global arena with many of its multinational companies operating in different corners of the globe. In this way, United States has managed to influence the world in using its products. In terms of military power, United States army has dominated over other countries with its sophisticated military equipment and highly trained army personnel. However, despite the United States excelling in these areas, it has failed to exert its influence to changing the cultures of other countries. The greatest obstacle to achieving this is the cultural barrier that exists.
Unlike other countries that are keen into teaching English to their students, the situation in United States is different. There are few learning institutions that offer foreign languages to their students. Even for these few institutions that offer foreign languages, they offer them as electives and therefore the students are not mandated to study them. There is therefore low enrollment as few learners have interest in learning them. Most of the students appear not to have any prospects of working outside the United States and this explains their lack of interest in learning foreign languages.
Considering the extent to which the United States has managed to dominate the world in many areas, it is a bit surprising that it has been unable to cause any significant cultural impact on the rest of the world. Language is one of the strongest tools that can lead to cultural change. For one to be in a position to change the culture of others, he must be willing to learn their language first. The United States presents a good opportunity for cultural transformation due to its global presence especially in business and military. Most of its multinational organizations are headed by people from the host countries who better understands the local language and hence they can be in a position to communicate effectively with other people. Such leaders will only work towards promoting the culture of their country as it is what they understand. The situation would have been different if these organizations were headed by citizens from United States who understands the local language.
Learning foreign languages will enable citizens of United States to have a deeper cultural understanding of people from all corners of the world. From historical times to the present day, united States have had a bad reputation of cultural intolerance with numerous cases of people from other cultures being discriminated. Racial discrimination is a problem that has persisted in the United States for quite a long time and this problem has made United States to be viewed as a country that has less cultural tolerance as compared to other countries (Bernadette). Countries such as Britain also attract many people as United States do but there are very few cases of racial discrimination. The reason for this could be that Britain has in its history interacted with people of different cultures and nations. During the colonial period, Britain colonized many countries in different parts of the world. In so doing, the British people interacted with other people and even learned their languages and this is how they were able to change their culture. For example, the missionaries who spread Christianity made it a priority to learn the language of the local people as they understood the impact that understanding the language of other people can have in changing their culture. By learning the language of those people that they colonized, they were able to understand and appreciate them as people and this explains why the Britons are more accommodative to cultural diversity as compared to the Americans.
Americans should borrow a leaf from the British in relation to how they managed to change the culture of other people. The existing animosity between the Americans and people from other cultures can be directly attributed to the lack of cultural understanding between the Americans and people from other parts of the world. Americans have restricted themselves to only learning their language and ignoring the language of other people. The American dominance to the world culture can only take place if the Americans take active efforts to learn the language spoken in different countries (Osborn). In addition to this, the culture of any community can best be learned through that language. As such, for any person willing to have a significant influence in the culture of other people, the best strategy is to start by learning the language of those people so that he can be in a position to use it to manipulate them.
The importance of learning foreign language has also been seen as a step in curbing global security challenges. Language barriers have been seen as a big threat to the collection of intelligence in areas where there is a big cultural divide. A case in point is the September 911 attack in the United States where there was inadequate intelligence about the attack making it possible for attackers to fulfill their plans. It was identified that lack of people who could speak the language of the attackers contributed to the problem (Swaffar). It is a widely accepted fact that it is easier to collect intelligence information using the language of the people that the information is being collected. The fact that there were few people who could speak this language meant that it was impossible for information about the attack to be gathered. By ensuring that foreign languages are taught in schools, it will be possible to have people in all the fields that are conversant in more than one language. In the military, having people who understands many languages will make it possible for intelligence data to be collected with ease as compared to when there are no people who understands the foreign language.
Learning different languages expands the career opportunities of graduates as it makes it possible for them to work outside the United States. Working outside one’s country makes it possible for one to interact with people of different cultures. This enhances cultural appreciation as people are able to appreciate each other together with their cultural differences.
Despite the many advantages that are associated with learning a foreign language, there are still a number of people who hold an opposing view. This group of people cited various reasons why it is not important for foreign languages to be taught in schools (Eddy). The first argument is that learners are overburdened with the task of learning a language that they may not use in their career. In this way, learners waste a lot of their time trying to comprehend the concepts of new language which will eventually add no value to their career. These people who hold this view are of the view that these students could use the time that they dedicate to learning foreign language more constructively such as learning other courses that are related to their field of study and which will help in adding value to their resume as well as providing useful skills that they will use in future.
Another argument that has been put against learning a foreign language in schools relates to the levels of competencies that learners acquire through being exposed to foreign language in a classroom situation. The two years of learning foreign language that are proposed are not enough to make the learner to be competent in using the language. Research has shown that the best time for one to learn a foreign language is when they are between the age of 8 and 12 years as this is the time when their brain is more receptive to learning a new language (Silber). Teaching a new language at later years such as during college will be least effective and the learners may require more time to learn the language. The argument here is that within the two years, the learners will only have learnt the basics which cannot help them in making any meaningful cultural change as they can barely communicate in the new language.
In conclusion, the proposal to have all students in the United States to learn a foreign language for at least two years before they can be allowed to graduate is one that can promote chances of America having a higher possibility of changing the culture of people in different parts of the world. Studies have shown that language is a very powerful tool that if utilized properly can lead to cultural change. Americans should therefore strive to learn new languages so that they can be in a position to influence other people in changing their culture. Despite the the potential that learning a new language have in influencing the culture of a given community, there are some critics who hold contrary views. These critics hold that it is impossible for one to learn new language in two years and that only the basic concepts can be learned within this time. These basic skills learned are not adequate to cause any meaningful impact on the culture of a particular group of people.
- Bernadette, Morris. Why study a foreign language? Online Resource, Retrieved on 21st December 2016 from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/759
- Eddy, Peter. “Foreign Languages in the USA: A National Survey of American Attitudes and Experience.” The Modern Language Journal, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010, pp. 58–63.
- Oaks, Ursula. Foreign-Language Learning: What the United States Is Missing Out On. Online Resource, Retrieved on 21st December 2016 from https://blog.nafsa.org/2010/04/20/foreign-language-learning-what-the-u-s-is-missing-out-on-2/
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- Swaffar, Janet. and Per Urlaub. Transforming Postsecondary Foreign Language Teaching in the United States. , 2014. Internet resource.
- Silber, Ellen S. Critical Issues in Foreign Language Instruction. New York: Garland, 2011. Print.
- Wolf, Ernest. “Foreign Languages in American Education.” The Journal of Higher Education, vol. 27, no. 9, 2012, pp. 485–513.