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by Asma Gaba
When should students begin learning a second language at school? As the world progresses, being bilingual is almost a necessary skill, especially when future employment is considered. It’s common that languages are first introduced to high school freshmen and that they most likely finish the course in the language by their last year. But the truth of the matter is that it’s rare that one leaves high school fluent in a new language.
I have a couple of friends that live in Sweden, and I found it amazing that they fluently spoke Swedish and English. They told me that most European countries taught English to their students from a young age- as young as 5 or 6 years old! By the time ten years, or even less, have passed, the students are fluent in English. I was impressed, and simultaneously contemplative. Imagine if schools in the States implemented the same practice. By our teen years, we would have been fluent in Spanish, French, German- in whatever language our school offered!
Personally, I believe the way we learn languages in the States is, quite frankly, pathetic. We graduate with a minimal amount of knowledge, barely enough to hold a relevant conversation with. To top it off, when we get to college, we’re most likely told to take yet another language class. It’s redundant and doesn’t accomplish a thing, in my eyes. At the very best, all high school language courses do is leave the student with a very basic understanding, but certainly not enough to have a substantial benefit in the long run.
American culture, as a whole, believes that everyone on Earth should speak English for our benefit. I think that we as Americans should look to other countries and learn from the ways they are so successful- and their bilingual nature is for sure something that I believe would do a lot of good in our education system.