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PA school language plan may cost too much
Original post made
on Jan 16, 2008
A detailed new plan to start teaching foreign languages in elementary schools may be too expensive for Palo Alto, school board members told a study group Tuesday night.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 2:17 AM
Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:19 am
I'd agree with you that the being a COTW is about understanding other people's culture and values, but I don't think you can get there without a second language.
I'm all for teaching kids (and adults) about other societies, but at the end of the day that's book learning which doesn't make much difference in the real world--except, perhaps, to encourage an open mind and tolerant attitude.
To "get" another culture, you'd need to read their newspapers on a regular basis for a while, read their literature a little, speak with people formally and informally, see how they talk to one another, grasp how their language reflects their worldview. Then, with some work, you'll "get" that culture. Once you've had that experience, I think it is much easier to "get" other cultures--even to a certain extent without speaking the language. But the hard work is that first experience. Or two.
In your case, for instance, I think if you've read French newspapers, read books by French about France, listened to people curse each other over parking and then chat over coffee, talked with them about what's on their mind (politics and food), eavesdropped on their formal behavior on nude beaches (or whatever), etc., then you've got a sense of France that you will never attain from a monolingual viewpoint.
Having done that once, I think you will be much better attuned--not to particular differences but to the possibility of difference--when you travel on business to Asia.
And learning multiple languages is not just for a small minority. Outside of the English-speaking world, it is highly frequent, if not the norm. Also, there is a mistaken assumption that if anyone is learning a second language, it's English. That often holds true in Europe nowadays, but the picture is much more diverse elsewhere.
No, you have what I'm saying backwards. I think PAUSD summer immersion programs would be a waste of time and money, and would not be a basis for later fluency. I think you're right that some people in our community would like the idea of a baby-step after-school language program or a summer program, but I just don't think that would be money well spent.
I would hope the district would give careful consideration before approving a program--no matter how popular--that is ineffective.
There are a bunch of summer immersion programs from S.F. down to S.J., though you're right that traveling to the country would make a difference.
Improving the native language is only one of the reasons for studying a foreign language, and a minor reason, in my opinion. In any case, there is no evidence that studying a more-closely related language will have a greater benefit, in this regard, than one that is less closely related. Given that children's minds are so flexible, childhood would be an ideal time to start a language that is linguistically very different from the native language. Thus something like Chinese or Japanese would be great.
As for the Tigers (haven't heard that term since the meltdown), only some of them emphasized English, and it played only a marginal role (up to now). But having a second or third language is, as you point out, increasingly important.