Should the US start teaching foreign language sooner?

Over here in Germany, many school systems start getting serious about teaching children English when they’re in 5th grade. Before that, they are learning basic English vocabulary. Later on, depending on which “track” you’re on (German schools work very differently), you can choose another language proficiency, or continue with English.

It’s been proven time and time again that the best time for teaching students language is when they’re between 4-12 years of age, and the mind is capable of rapidly absorbing new words and sorting out sounds on a daily basis. Seeing little German kids coming up to me and speaking English, it makes me wonder why US schools wait so long before regularly teaching foreign language. Some are already teaching foreign language in grade school, but these are mostly private schools.

Do you agree that public elementary schools in America should start making foreign language a serious part of the cirriculum?

Answer #1

I dont think they should, I think that should be the parents duty, because where I live we dont even have adequate funds for math, english, or science. Plus it would have to be extracurricular, because I know I would be mad if I had to give up an elective for a foreign language.

Answer #2

I totally agree that children have an easier time learning when they are younger. when we moved to germany, my little son was reading the autobahn signs to me very quickly. his understanding and retention of the german language is with him still and it has been 25 years since he first learned. it is sweet, when he visits I can hear him talking in his sleep and it is always in german. well, that would certainly make him blush…

Answer #3

I know when I was in school, foreign language wasn’t a big deal, but now that I have a kid, there is a bulk of videos, cartoons, and teaching tools to introduce it to them while they are learning to speak. The baby einstein series has a video for infants with nursery rhymes repeated in different languages. Then when the kiddos are a little older, Nick Jr and Noggin have shows like Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao Kai Lan. Most private daycares and preschools also have at least a spanish vocabulary list right next to the spelling words. I don’t think it should be the parents responsibility because we can’t teach our children what we don’t know. A student wouldn’t miss that elective if he or she didn’t know it was an option before. I hope they work at least some spanish into the lesson plan before my kiddo hits kindergarten.

Answer #4


Every foreign language teacher in America is seriously irked at the fact that we don’t start rigorously teaching foreign languages until around age 14. Studies have shown that a certain part of the neck (or thereabouts… forgot where, exactly) hardens at around age 7, making it imperative to immerse kids in foreign languages before age 8. After age 7, it becomes immensely difficult to pick up foreign languages and speak them fluently, without heavy native accents.

It’s kind of pathetic how Europeans can know two or three languages fluently by the time they are teens, while over here in America, many high school students only fulfill the required 2 years of a foreign language.

Answer #5

The sooner the better. The bilingual children I teach (mostly English/French, with some also speaking German or Spanish too) are extremely able, and learn very quickly. Learning two languages really does seem to ‘open a window’ to other learning skills too. As you say, the later it’s left, the harder it gets.

I just think that we English speakers (British, American or other) get lazy because, as you mentioned, even small children in other countries can have a go at speaking our language to us. But if you think about the brain development that it seems to provide, plus the advantages to an individual in being able to travel, work abroad and broaden their mind, then it’s well worth teaching a second language sooner rather than later.

Answer #6

jaes: “ I think that should be the parents duty, because where I live we dont even have adequate funds for math, english, or science.”

Looking at your profile, it says you’re 15. I’m talking about teaching foreign language to kids much earlier than that, so that by the time you’re 15, foreign language is elective. And technically, helping with all homework should be the parents duty, including math, science, and English. I see your point though, budgets are always a problem.

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