Globalization May Create An Interest in Second Language Learning by Melanie Ann Hendrick, Owner of Language Complete


            Would you agree that the Internet has provided
instantaneous opportunities for a connection between people and places who
would not otherwise be reachable through your back door? The World Wide Web, Skype
and Social Media are only a few examples of how society communicates with
others who live anywhere from hundreds to millions of miles away from one’s
homeland.   Although the common language
in business is English, if you could communicate with professionals who work in
foreign markets in their native tongue, imagine the impact you would make upon
the people in your industry as well as in the country of your intended sale. The
reaction you might receive after repeated interaction with others in South
America, Germany, Italy, China or another country, just might ring, sale!!  Of course, we all know that in business a
trusting relationship has to be developed between seller and buyer regardless
of the industry before a sale can occur.  So why not develop that mutual relationship by
speaking some expressions or whole sentences and paragraphs to your clients in
their native tongue. Although bilingualism gives business people an edge in the
global marketplace, there are some underlying reasons why second language
learning is not always taken advantage of.

            One reason why an individual might engage or disengage in
becoming bilingual according to Howard Gardner, the Harvard graduate who
invented the idea of multiple intelligences, is one’s attitude toward the
target language and culture.  For
example, when you think of Italy, do you remember that tasty pasta primavera or
meaty lasagna you consumed over a candle lit table with your significant other
on your last anniversary celebration?
Do you remember the pristine, blue water you dove into in your hotel
pool in the Mayan Riviera?  Or on the
other hand, do you remember the last time you were at a grocery store and two
women were conversing in a language other than English and it annoyed you?  You might have felt that only English should
be spoken despite the native tongue of those chattering adults.  Other factors abound as well according to
Gardner.

Why Adults
Do or Do Not Study a Modern Language

            Such considerations include a person’s language
abilities, motivation, intelligence level or the stress associated with
becoming bilingual.  In my own experience
as owner of a language school, adults do not invest in second language classes
because of time constraints or they think that if they are not going to use the
language, why learn it?  That is a valid
point.  According to a September, 2012
edition of  The Rotarian magazine,
in an article entitled, Facts of the
Matter
, Languages, however, the
more proficient a person is in a second language, the greater the chance of
dementia setting in at a later age. Bilingual people have also been found to be
able to ignore distractions better than monolinguals.  Adult students from my own experiences take
language classes for a myriad of reasons.
The most popular reason are for travel purposes, grandchildren and
children adopted from Central America, academically oriented clients who want
to take on second and third languages or because learning a second or third
language is on their bucket list.

Why Daycare
and Elementary Aged Children Should Engage in Second Language Learning

            The aforementioned are only a few reasons why adults study
a modern language.  On the other hand,
let’s talk about when and why children should and do take a second
language.  Research supports that ages
zero to three are the best years for young ones to learn a second
language.  Additional, impressionable
second language learning years are ages two to seven, and last, ages ten to
thirteen.  The message therefore according
to research is, if a school system, parents or guardians are going to introduce
second and even a third language to a child’s daily curriculum, the earlier the
better.

            Why then are local school districts in the United States lacking
in early foreign language learning on the whole in comparison with countries
like those in Europe and many other parts of the world? Budget cuts may be the
reason, not to mention the fact that some parents may want their children to
learn a second language but the concern I have often heard is, “he/she needs to
be able to speak English first.”  These
concerns are understandable, however because most of our children in the United
States are immersed in half or all day English-speaking daycare or school
programs, therefore the chances are that English will be learned regardless of
exposing children to a second language. Additionally, my personal experience as
a teacher has been that children learn language when they are cognitively ready
just like any other subject matter.  It
is amazing to me how one week I might be working on the pronunciation of color
words in Spanish with sixteen month old children in groups of for example eight
or more at a time, and only two will be able to repeat the words as we sound
them out phonetically.  Two weeks later,
perhaps three of the eight children are now able to pronounce new Spanish words.  In three months time, most of the speakers are
now pronouncing the Spanish vocabulary that I teach.  The progression is slow at first, but every
child is eventually able to learn the second language and be fluent in English
as well.

Tweens and
Teens Who Take a Modern Language

            For tweens and teens, most are taking a second language
because they have to but most importantly, The Michigan State Board of
Education, The State Legislature and former Governor Jennifer Granholm passed
the two credit World Language Other than English requirement.  The two credit mandate states that starting
with the graduating class of 2016, at least two credits of a world language or the
ability to demonstrate a two year proficiency

             Despite the educational benefits of the modern language
requirement which are highly beneficial to Michigan students, think about why perhaps
the Michigan educational standards increased at the time of our former
governor’s time in office.  At that time,
not only was Michigan the first state in the country to set the two credit
minimum for second language learning, but four years of math and English and
three years of science were also mandated.
My personal belief is that because the economic climate of this state
was in crisis mode and politicians were fearing that our high school graduates
were at risk for few employment opportunities, educational standards were
increased so that our Michigan graduates would be able to be hired after high
school and college graduation.   That was
back in the year 2006.

 Michigan
Educational Standards In Danger of Being Reduced

                 Six years later, in an article entitled, Algebra
2, foreign language would be dropped from Michigan graduation requirements
under bill debated in House committee
, published online in mlive.com on
May 30, 2012, written by Dave Murray, Lansing politicians are now debating
about whether to allow flexibility in districts by dropping the Algebra 2 and
foreign language mandates. One reason is so that students who are more trade
school oriented might be able to skip these requirements and concentrate on
subjects that interest and better prepare them for careers in a trade like plumbing,
electricity or auto mechanics.  Two state
Board of Education members Eileen Weisner and Nancy Danhof disagreed however.
Weisner specifically stated that eighty percent of the fifty most fastest
growing jobs will require skills beyond high school.  Forty percent will require a two year degree
beyond high school and about sixty-six percent of jobs will require a college
education according to the aforementioned online article.

             Why is Lansing suddenly talking about the dropping the
foreign language and Algebra 2 mandate?  I
have heard people in general say it is because not all students can learn a
second language or can handle the rigors of Algebra 2.  Are these subjects now possibly not going to
be mandated by the state because the economy is slowly on the rise and job
shortages in 2012 are not in the imminent danger that they once were back in
2006? Is it because we have a new governor and the political climate has
changed since Governor Granholm? It seems in my opinion that an increase in
educational mandates rises and falls according to the economic times.  When the economy is good and Michigan
citizens have jobs, then our educational system must be doing okay. When the
economic climate is in a desperate state, maybe we need to look at how
unprepared our school system is in this state? Is anyone out there seeing a
pattern like I am?  Either keep the
mandates in this state or do not.

               The above article seemed to sum it up well in my
opinion.  State Representative Lisa Brown
of Bloomfield Hills said, “The odd thing is that just a couple of weeks ago
this committee had a unanimous vote to recommend districts start with foreign
languages in elementary schools. .  .
The inconsistency is frustrating.”

             I’ll say. If it is frustrating for those in Lansing,
imagine how difficult it is for those of us who teach modern languages and the
message we are sending our children.

 Write back and tell me
what your opinion is? Do you believe that Michigan’s educational two credit
modern language mandate and its algebra 2 counterpart should remain or be taken
away and why?  You can write me back on
my “La Blog” at www.languagecomplete.com.

Articles referred to in writing my article:

1.) Second Language Acquisition-Is a Vital Tool that Every Individual Needs To Have, downloaded 0n February 5, 2013,

http://www.articlesbase.com/business-articles/

second-language-acquisition-is-a-vital-tool.

2.) Motivation as a Contributing Factor in Second Language
Acquisition
, by Jacqueline
Norris-Holt, jacquijapan at hotmail.com, Aichi Shukutoku High School, (Nagoya,
Japan),

http://iteslj.org/Articles/Norris-Motivation.html, downloaded on February 5, 2013.

 3.) Smithsonian, July/August 2010, Special Issue, 40 Things You Need to Know
About the Next 40 Years
, Ready, Set,
Grow,
pp. 60-69.

4.) Algebra 2, foreign language would be dropped from
Michigan graduation requirements under bill debated in House committee
by Dave Murray, Published: May 30, 2012 downloaded on
March 5, 2013, http://www.mlive.com/education/