World Language Delay

October 21, 2018

At Waukee, students may start taking a language class around the age of 13. Meanwhile, across the globe, some begin to speak and understand in a secondary foreign language, as young as 3 or 4 years old. Studies even show that it can be challenging to learn a new language after teen years. So, why does the U.S. offer foreign language classes at a later age?

There are countless benefits to begin learning a second language. It helps reach out to people who speak a different language and extends communication with others. No matter what lifestyle or career one chooses to enter, they will eventually interact with others whose native language is not English. However, benefits to speaking another language are not just limited to interactions with others, it also allows one to experience a new culture.

“When you learn a language, you don’t learn just words, you learn about a different culture, you learn about a different perspective, and that’s something I love so much about teaching a language,” explained Spanish teacher Ms. Heidi Bibler.

Bibler described how it is not only Waukee that has a foreign language delay, but the delay also goes across the United States. “From a teacher’s perspective, we’re here to help guide students to then go out into the real world and make differences and make change,” she stated. Bibler advocates for more foreign language courses, and she also wishes that students were more motivated to learn the language to expand their knowledge culturally, rather than another mark on a college checklist, which can be a big motivating factor for taking a language class in high school.

At WHS, there are only two language classes offered – Spanish and German. While at other schools around Iowa, there are classes including French, Japanese and various other languages. Without enough support or want for more language courses from members of the community, the two courses offered here at Waukee will be the only two options for a while. In the meanwhile, students at Waukee will only have the choice to begin a language course in middle school.

Globally, it is an estimated fifty percent of the world’s population that are bilingual. However, in the United States, it is an estimated fifteen to twenty percent of people who consider themselves bilingual, both statistics according to the European Commission. With diversity growing across the country, and even in Waukee High School, being able to speak more than one language expands one’s knowledge on different cultures and ethnicities.

The lack of foreign language education persists to this day, with a small percent of those who consider themselves bilingual. Beginning a new language at a young age gives those kids a head start on learning and adapting to another language. Research has also shown that children learning a new language boost their problem-solving skills, along with improving memory and concentration. Sophomore Varsha Nallabirudu commented, “There are studies where kindergarteners learn a language better than in middle school because you’ve already adapted to the language you’ve grown up with, and adding another language makes it harder for your brain to realize the new language.”

Overall, speaking another language extends communication to others in the workplace and society. Starting a language at a younger age will just make it easier on the individual in the future. Nallabirudu concluded, “You’re not only learning a new language, you’re learning about a new culture.”


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