The Instigator
ksiegrist
Pro (for)
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The Contender
doldrums
Con (against)
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It is important for students K-12 to learn a foreign language

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/27/2013 Category: Education
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,566 times Debate No: 41337
Debate Rounds (5)
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ksiegrist

Pro

I believe that it's is important for students K-12 to learn a foreign language. Now I don't mean necessarily as young as pre-school children, but maybe start as old as Middle school and then again in High school. Some parents teach their kids young, since the child's brain is like a sponge, it will absorb everything that they hear. Young children can learn, take in and remember a lot of information so that is why parents teach them at a young age. In Middle school, you should have to take minimum of 2 years of a language whether it's German, French, Spanish, etc. Also when they get to High school, they should have to take the maximum of 2 years a language, since you already have to take one year of language to graduate. Learning a language can be very important in many ways. You have many cultures in the U.S, many of which speak Spanish. Some Spanish people don't really know much English, so if you need to communicate with them, it would be good to know Spanish. Also if you're going to travel to another country, for example a Spanish speaking country, you should probably learn Spanish because there is no doubt in my mind that most of the people won't know proper English. Another reason why learning a language is important because if you are applying for a world wide job or just a job in general. Most of the time, they would like you to be able to speak another language besides English so that if a customer comes in, you would be able to talk with them and have no trouble with it.
doldrums

Con

Thank you for instigating this debate. Best of luck to you!

Indeed, a child's brain is comparable to a sponge, but Sponge A may not function as well as Sponge B. Learning a foreign language requires a certain aptitude, and not all of us possess said aptitude. To draw from a personal example: I took two years of Spanish when I was in high school, but cannot form a coherent sentence. In the same way not everyone is good at writing essays or doing math, not everyone is good at learning a foreign language.

Forcing American children to learn another language, specifically Spanish, to cater to another culture is absurd. If you go to live in France, you should speak French. If you go to live in Japan, you should speak Japanese. If you come to live in America, you should speak English. Period. Americans should not have to learn Spanish to make things easier on people who have yet to master the language. It encourages these people not to learn how to speak English.

If you travel to another country, of course, you should have some basic idea of the language; this, however, can be achieved without formal classes. Another issue is dialects. A foreign language class may teach students the formal version of a language, but there are countless other variants of the exact same language. For instance, the Spanish spoken in Mexico is different from the Spanish spoken in Spain.

A middle school foreign language class would be so incredibly watered-down, it would be almost useless. The children are too young to fully grasp any useful concept when learning a new language, a task that is very difficult.

To draw from my personal example once again, taking classes in a language does not necessarily mean you will be fluent, or able to communicate with a native speaker even halfway decently. Two years of a language in high school is the maximum, you suggest. In my two years of Spanish, I learned to count to twenty, name the colors, and how to say 'I am thirsty'. Part of this is the fact that, in two years, we did not delve into all of the different tenses, ways to form sentences, words for every day things, et cetera, et cetera; the other part of this is the fact that I did not retain any of it. Even if this proposed standard was raised to four years, there is no guarantee one would be able to communicate in a remotely coherent fashion, or understand a native speaker when they are talking.
Debate Round No. 1
ksiegrist

Pro

While you may be correct about some children not being able to learn or retain the language when they are learning it, I believe that learning it when you are younger could have a big benefit and would be a lot easier since I referenced that the child's mind is like a sponge. I'm going to give you an example: my Foundations of Education teacher taught one of his daughters where all of the states are located on the map, how to count, how to spell, how to use more difficult words and learn Spanish. He also told us that the child's mind is like a sponge, they absorb everything that they hear and they are better at memorizing things and retaining it. Now it might not be like this with every child, but the majority of them are as far as I know. Learning another language might also be difficult and take time, but like I said there are definitely benefits. You'll will learn a lot about the different cultures. Some children are very naive when it comes to things like this, they don't like to expand their horizons because they don't think they need to. People who know culture are people with great knowledge and know their way around life. If you learn another language, this will permit you to be able to travel more and you will know the world better. Not that you can't travel without learning a new language, it just gives you a little more insight about the world around you.
You would discover so much if you learned a new language. Not only will you be open to more cultures, but you would be able to meet thousands and thousands of people thanks to the extra language you learned. It could change your life. Another reason is that it will develop your mind. By learning you are exercising your brain, and so that means you should be able to take in new information (whatever language you are learning) and memorize it by doing simple exercises. When you learn a new language, you are able to put verbs and words together.
You said that forcing American children to learn another language to cater to another culture is absurd and you also said that if you come to live in America and you are from a Spanish speaking country you should know English. Well like you said in your first paragraph, not everyone is good at learning a foreign language. Citizens in Spanish speaking countries don't know English, it's considered for them a foreign language because they don't know it. If someone in a Spanish speaking country comes here to America, what happens if they can't learn English because it's too hard for them? It may take them a little while to learn it but that's ok because at least they are understanding how Americans speak to one another.
Like I said before, it's good to know a second language because you get more job opportunities, and now a days that is what people of American are looking for, jobs to make money. We have so much unemployment in the U.S right now, it has rose to about 7.3 percent in the last year. People will do whatever they can to get a job, and some jibs require the knowledge of a second language.
doldrums

Con

There is not always direct correlation between the learning of a language and the learning of a culture. To once again reference my own foreign language experience, I learned very little about the Spanish culture itself. Knowledge of the various words and phrases did not give me any more insight into the culture itself. While, of course, different textbooks may have different methods and lessons, to say that learning a new language will provide insight into the culture is not 100% true.

The learning of a second language places an extra cognitive strain children. It limits the number of words that a child can learn in a set amount of time.[1] The learning of a language in later years can seriously hinder a child's ability to entirely master this second language. Children who start learning a new language in later years will always have a "foreign" accent, which can cause misunderstandings and impede future opportunities in using that language professionally.[1] A study also found that bilinguals are slower to acquire vocabulary than are monolinguals, because bilinguals must divide their time between two languages while monolinguals focus on only one language.[2]

Another issue is an increased academic load that can take time away from both outside activities and even other classes.[2] It takes time to master a language, and that time is not something that all students have.

Mastering a foreign language would also require extra studying and effort outside of class on the part of students. Let's say that a student takes a Spanish class five days a week, with a 45 minute class period. For the sake of argument, we will leave out holidays and potential shortened days, and say the average days in a school year is 180. Multiply that by 45 to get 8,100--the number of minutes the student will spend in Spanish class. This translates into 135 hours in the 36-week school year, or 3.7 hours a week. A study suggest that, with 5 hours of studying a week, it takes a person 3 years to be fluent in Spanish (Class I Language).[3] By the end of the 2 year period you propose, children would not be fluent. The same study suggests that, with 10 hours of studying per week, one can be fluent in 1.5 years--[3] roughly 2 school years. A student would have to put in an extra 5.3 hours of studying per week to achieve fluency, and that effort is one most will not exert.

One argument is that a second language makes it easier to find a job, but if students do not achieve fluency while in school, as I suggest previously, the likelihood of them learning it later in life is small. Another point I made was on "foreign" accents, which can cause misunderstandings. This also relates back to the various dialects every language can have that a single class cannot possibly address.

The issues of immigrants not being able to speak English in America is essentially irrelevant to this conversation, except on one point. Forcing Americans to learn another language to, as I said, cater to people how cannot speak English, creates a vicious circle. More immigrants will not learn English, armed with the thinking that, since we all speak their native language, they do not have to learn the language. This hinders their assimilation into American society. This begets a further need for students, and even adults, to learn a non-native language. But, I digress, as this point has little to do with the crux of the debate.

You state that two years of a foreign language should be a graduation requirement. This may very well be too much for some students, since, as I previously stated, foreign languages are very difficult for some to learn. Some states have no foreign language requirement, and taking a foreign language is entirely optional. This system is far more reasonable, allowing students a choice in whether or not they would like to learn a second language, and also not putting their diploma on the line if they have trouble mastering the language.

Sources
[1] http://everydaylife.globalpost.com...
[2] http://www.babycolumbus.com...
[3] http://languagesurfer.com...
Debate Round No. 2
ksiegrist

Pro

So what you're saying is that if children learn two different languages that they are going to be slower at learning vocabulary and could give them an accent which causes misunderstandings? I don't think that would always be the case though in my perspective. Honestly there are kids that are quite smart and learn even more than two languages and have the ability to keep up with tough vocabulary and vocabulary in general. There have been studies that have found that speaking two or more languages is a great asset to the cognitive process. Yes the brains of bilingual people operate differently than single language speakers, but they give mental benefits. If you don't study the language all the time, then your obviously not going to remember what you have learned. Some advantages are that you become smarter. Speaking another language improves the functionality of your brain by challenging it to recognize, negotiate the meanings, and communicate in different language systems. This skill boosts those abilities. Another advantage is that you build multitasking skills. Multilingual people, especially children, are skilled at switching between two systems of speech, writing and structure. There was a study done at the Pennsylvania State University, this "juggling" skill makes them good multitaskers, because they can easily switch different structures. In one of the studies, participants used a diving simulator while doing separate, distracting tasks at the same time. The research that was found was that people who spoke more than one language made fewer errors in the diving attempt. Another advantage is that your memory improves. Educators often liken the brain to a muscle, because it usually functions better with exercise. Studies show that people that speak more than one language are better at retaining shopping lists, names, and directions. Another advantage is that you become more perceptive. [1]
There are many more advantages that I could go through but that would take a while.

Sources
[1] www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/10126883/Why-learn-a-foreign-language-Benefits-of-bilingualism.html
doldrums

Con

*Some* students are good at learning foreign languages. Not *all* students. If *some* students were good at calculus, would we mandate calculus as a graduation requirement for *all* students?

Bilingualism is not without its benefits, but these cognitive advantages are not exclusive to bilingualism.

For instance, one can become better at multitasking by simply working on related tasks together, keeping a to-do list visible, and using downtime to review information.[1] Doing these things over time can train the brain to be better at multitasking. One argument is that it improves your memory. Playing an instrument improves memory,[2] and would be a different way to achieve the exact same benefit. While the benefits of learning bilingualism certainly exist, there are different ways to gain the same benefits, and these ways are arguably simpler and more enjoyable than the learning of a second language.

One advantage you state is that you become "smarter". While, as I said, not without some benefits, bilingualism does not directly correlate to a higher IQ.[3]

Foreign languages are also easily forgotten if not put into practice. I myself never once spoke Spanish after I finished my classes--I never had the opportunity to hone these skills. Such opportunities would be even harder to come by if a student learned a less common language, like French or German. It is also suggested that the quicker a language is learned, the quicker it can be forgotten.[4] Given the limited time in a school year and the break-neck pace at which classes are taught, we can presume it would be very easy for a student to forget the language they were learning.

An issue that cannot be stressed enough is the simple fact that some children do not possess the aptitude or desire to learn a second language, and therefore, making it a requirement to take a foreign language class in school is unfair. It is extra work that not each student wants to put in. From personal experience, I can say mastering a second language is a very difficult and time-consuming task, and one that does not always pan out. It is best to allow students to decide for themselves if they would like to take a foreign language class.

Sources
[1] http://m.entrepreneur.com...
[2] http://www.effectivemusicteaching.com...
[3] http://wisciblog.com...
[4] http://www.fluentin3months.com...
Debate Round No. 3
ksiegrist

Pro

I am forfeiting this round.
doldrums

Con

As my opponent has forfeited this round, I extend all arguments.
Debate Round No. 4
ksiegrist

Pro

ksiegrist forfeited this round.
doldrums

Con

I want to sincerely thank my opponent for this debate. Vote Con!
Debate Round No. 5
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