U.S. schools are saying goodbye to foreign languages

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shfranke  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:10
English to Arabic
+ ...
Title of original article in _The Atlantic_ is misleading and incorrectly over-generalizing Dec 20, 2014

Greetings to all.

The title of that cited original article appearing in an issue of _The Atlantic_ is misleading and incorrectly over-generalizing, as the writer used the situation in that one school in NYC as an example for extrapolating and then segueing the piece into an implicit characterization of apparently all "U.S. Schools...".

While the situation regarding programs for foreign language instruction in a number of public and private secondary schools here is California tend to range from bleak to (ahem) variable, generalizations are unfounded and unhelpful. What the students' parents, local school boards, and ultimately, employers want seems to determine what gets taught, how much and how well.

Surprised that < proz.com > considered that flawed and superficial article as worthy of posting as a serious item.

Regards,

Stephen H. Franke
Senior veteran Arabic linguist, dialectologist,
trainer, and educator
San Pedro (Los Angeles Waterfront Area), California


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:10
Member (2008)
French to English
Spanish? Dec 22, 2014

What about Spanish? Or is that not considered a "foreign" language in the US?

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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:10
Member
Italian to English
Very sad Dec 22, 2014

"And by the way, Americans don’t tend to do foreign languages very well... But my son took three years of French and he could barely say, “How are you?” … "

Sad on so many levels. Sad that Moskovitz bases her judgement of whether a whole nation should learn foreign languages on her son's experience and competence (or lack of).

Coming from the UK, I think the US suffers from the same linguistic imperialism of expecting the rest of the world to understand English. But to me, the effects of learning a foreign language go deeper than mere linguistic prowess; it means the willingness and openness to learn about and accept other cultures. And I feel that the schools in question - and the US as a whole - should take a long hard look at what they are choosing to teach their children.

After all, it is not about how "good" the future generations will be at foreign languages that matters. Fear of inadequacy should not be a deciding factor.


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Jonathan Norris  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Re: sad and misleading Dec 22, 2014

I just want to support the other posts, first that this article in no way reflects the state of education in the U.S. as a whole. Simply interviewing the "CEO" of some private school in Brooklyn is not representative of anything but that specific private school. And when you name your school "Success Academy," you can't expect much. That's right, I eat my dinner at "Healthy Hamburger Restaurant," attend "Success Academy" for school, my dog's name is "Good Doggy," and my parents' names are Strong and Caring. Good Grief.

Polling elementary and middle schools, where foreign language is hardly ever taught to begin with, basically skips over the largest contingent of learners in the U.S.: public high school students. Any conclusion based on that data is useless. It's like saying that football is on the decline based on a representative sample of women ages 65-70. Or vegetarianism is trending down among American carnivores. It's a no-brainer.

Besides, this woman is not a good ambassador for her organization. "We suck at it, so let's just quit." Soooo motivational. Did she then go on to say, "Foreign languages are stupid anyways. Everyone else speaks English already, so it is a waste of time to expect our children to learn them." No, in fact, it was the author of the article who said it, and even saw fit to end on that note.

[Edited at 2014-12-22 23:44 GMT]


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Roy Williams  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 02:10
German to English
Re: sad and misleading Dec 23, 2014

Jonathan Norris wrote:

I just want to support the other posts, first that this article in no way reflects the state of education in the U.S. as a whole. Simply interviewing the "CEO" of some private school in Brooklyn is not representative of anything but that specific private school. And when you name your school "Success Academy," you can't expect much. That's right, I eat my dinner at "Healthy Hamburger Restaurant," attend "Success Academy" for school, my dog's name is "Good Doggy," and my parents' names are Strong and Caring. Good Grief.

Polling elementary and middle schools, where foreign language is hardly ever taught to begin with, basically skips over the largest contingent of learners in the U.S.: public high school students. Any conclusion based on that data is useless. It's like saying that football is on the decline based on a representative sample of women ages 65-70. Or vegetarianism is trending down among American carnivores. It's a no-brainer.



Thanks for the rollicking laugh!


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:10
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Language and culture Dec 23, 2014

By learning a language, you're learning a whole culture. A door opens. You walk through it. From the other side, you look back at your own culture, seeing it objectively for the first time. There's nothing as good as this!

"Your own culture" is now an interaction between two cultures. You're rich!

Anybody who hasn't done this will not have the faintest idea of what I'm talking about.

[Edited at 2014-12-23 13:31 GMT]


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Jonathan Norris  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
No problem Dec 24, 2014

Roy Williams wrote:

Jonathan Norris wrote:

I just want to support the other posts, first that this article in no way reflects the state of education in the U.S. as a whole. Simply interviewing the "CEO" of some private school in Brooklyn is not representative of anything but that specific private school. And when you name your school "Success Academy," you can't expect much. That's right, I eat my dinner at "Healthy Hamburger Restaurant," attend "Success Academy" for school, my dog's name is "Good Doggy," and my parents' names are Strong and Caring. Good Grief.

Polling elementary and middle schools, where foreign language is hardly ever taught to begin with, basically skips over the largest contingent of learners in the U.S.: public high school students. Any conclusion based on that data is useless. It's like saying that football is on the decline based on a representative sample of women ages 65-70. Or vegetarianism is trending down among American carnivores. It's a no-brainer.



Thanks for the rollicking laugh!


Glad you like it.


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Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 02:10
Member (2006)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Typical overly drastic headline Dec 24, 2014

This is hardly the first time that a drastic headline grabs our attention only then to lead us into reading an article where the details give an entirely different impression.

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DS Trans  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:10
French to English
+ ...
When did we say hello? Dec 24, 2014

A decrease of 17% in middle schools offering a foreign language over 11 years seems significant to me. Harlem Success Academy is a large network of charter schools in NYC--highly regarded too.

Unfortunately I don't think I've ever met anyone who has come out of the public education system here with the ability to converse in a foreign language, except those who went to an immersion school. (I'm referring to native English speakers obviously.) Typically, high school graduates have had six years of foreign-language studies by the time they graduate. It's pitiful.

My HS Spanish teacher didn't speak it, and I thought that would have changed by now, but I learned that our local Spanish MS teacher hardly speaks it as well! It says something about the university system, but that's another discussion. What's really ridiculous is that native Spanish speakers will sit in a classroom for 2 years with a teacher who doesn't speak the language (because no other foreign language is offered). I'm so frustrated writing about it that I almost agree with her decision. I don't see any long-term benefits to "learning" a foreign language under these conditions.

Really we should be starting foreign languages earlier at the very least, and revise the teaching methods to emulate countries with successful instruction. But the US is very bottom-line oriented, and even though the benefits on the brain are well documented, foreign languages, monetarily speaking, are very undervalued. I recently saw a hotel's employment ad asking for multilingual "room attendants" (cleaning staff).

And then you get some right wingers who are upset that so many people speak Spanish here already. I doubt they want to create more or encourage people to converse with each other in a language other than English.

End of rant.


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Lambert_Jen  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 09:10
German to English
+ ...
RE:When did we say hello? Dec 29, 2014

>>And then you get some right wingers who are upset that so many people speak Spanish here already

Can we keep this professional, please? There are "right wingers" who are multi-lingual and well-traveled.


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Lambert_Jen  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 09:10
German to English
+ ...
RE:When did we say hello? Dec 29, 2014

>>And then you get some right wingers who are upset that so many people speak Spanish here already

Can we keep this professional, please? There are "right wingers" who are multi-lingual and well-traveled.


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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:10
Member (2007)
German to English
I second the motion. Dec 30, 2014

Ziema26 wrote:

>>And then you get some right wingers who are upset that so many people speak Spanish here already

Can we keep this professional, please? There are "right wingers" who are multi-lingual and well-traveled.


I second the motion. DS Trans's remark is uncalled for.


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DS Trans  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:10
French to English
+ ...
Sorry to offend Dec 31, 2014

It wasn't my purpose to offend. It would be great if we could embrace multilingualism in the US, but we don't and it shows in our educational priorities. Unfortunately it's not uncommon to hear people complain about those speaking other languages, particularly Spanish, and there's a political component to it.



[Edited at 2014-12-31 19:42 GMT]


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Daryo
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:10
Serbian to English
+ ...
Language and culture Jan 4, 2015

[quote]Tom in London wrote:

...

Anybody who hasn't done this will not have the faintest idea of what I'm talking about.


quite true - and unfortunately applies to the vast majority in almost every country ...


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Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:10
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
nope` Jan 8, 2015

My daughter (here in the US) has had Spanish classes every year since she was in the 3rd grade (10th grade now).

[Edited at 2015-01-08 13:18 GMT]


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