Friday, February 5, 2010

Will American children learn Chinese (or another foreign language)?

Will American children learn Chinese (or another foreign language)?

En masse, I doubt it. But I think there are a lot of good reasons to do so. Several of them are brought up in this interesting debate.

Yes, much of the world speaks English. But only certain people who have had certain educational opportunities (ie. biased towards the privileged) are able to obtain English fluency. Language skills are so critical to showing respect for a foreign culture and for being able to truly know and understand people. By making people more comfortable navigating a foreign environment, languages help them to explore, and therefore to better understand and to open their minds. Recent history shows us so many examples of the financial and human cost of mistakes due to not understanding other cultures or worldviews.

I don’t set a lot of absolute expectations for River’s future. But I do expect he won’t be among the 93% of Americans who don’t speak a language other than English. I believe it is critical that he be equipped to be part of the world, not just the American or English-speaking, community. I believe it’s my job as a parent and a concerned citizen to enable him and other children to have that opportunity.

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