America needs to prioritize bilingualism

America needs to prioritize bilingualism

Christopher Charleston/The Cougar

Learning a second language needs to be reinforced in American education, as U.S. bilingualism should be prioritized. It can help cognitive ability, improve academic scores and open more opportunities for second language speakers. 

Acquiring an entirely new language is a daunting challenge, but Americans, in particular, have been lagging behind in language acquisition compared to the rest of the world.

English is the most commonly spoken language when including first, second and third-generation speakers. However, when including only first-generation speakers, English ranks third overall, behind Chinese and Spanish. 

Despite it being in third place, many countries around the world provide a thorough English education for their population, but Americans often don’t see the benefit of learning a second language, believing that it is unnecessary simply because English is the more predominant language across the world.

Only about 20 percent of Americans can converse in two or more languages. It is alarming to have this many monolingual individuals in one country when half of the world is at least bilingual. America is often talked about as a leading country, but the lack of language learning is embarrassing. 

This lack of bilingualism is not surprising as public education in the United States treats linguistics as a trivial high school requirement. It doesn’t matter whether students learn the language or not, just as long as they pass the course.

Many colleges only require two years of a language for admission. Two years is definitely not enough time for monolingual high schoolers to become fluent. 

Many countries like Germany, start teaching their kids English at ages nine or ten, which allows them to be nearly fluent by the time many American kids are just starting to learn their second language. 

Learning a second language often comes with many benefits for the human brain. When one can accurately read, write and speak in another language, studies have shown that healthy adults retain a higher amount of their brain function as they grow older.

Additional research compiled by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages suggests that bilingual students have academic advantages as well. There have been several correlations found between bilingual students and higher scores in standardized tests such as the SAT. 

Bilingualism can also provide someone with more job opportunities. Many employers are now requesting bilingual workers so not speaking a second language can deflect job opportunities. America’s disregard for learning other languages is going to hold American kids back in terms of their future. 

There are clear benefits to bilingualism despite the lack of it found in the U.S. 

Learning a second language needs to be seen as an essential skill in this country. The U.S. education system needs to prioritize it to boost the country to the linguistic standards of other countries. This will improve individuals’ cognitive functions, academic performance and future employment. 

JJ Caceres is a political science freshman who can be reached at [email protected]

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