The way world language is taught in the US needs to be overhauled


Ela Or

Opinion Editor Jeffrey Dratch writes that the underfunding of schools has led to flaws in world language education in the United States.

Jeffrey Dratch, Opinion Editor

Only 21.6% of people in the United States speak a language other than English at home, according to a census study in 2020. There is a common misconception in the United States that only “gifted” people have the ability to learn a language other than English, unless raised in a multilingual household. However, this is simply not the case. With practice and effort, anyone can become bilingual, with the right resources in place. If you ask residents of  other countries, Americans are commonly described as selfish and lazy since an overwhelming majority of the nation only knows English.

Some schools in the United States, such as language immersion schools, try to enforce the principles of learning a second language early on in the school career. Unfortunately, these types of schools are really only feasible for those who have the ability to pay tuition or live in an area with these types of schools available to the public. 

With the lack of these special schools that enforce the concepts of learning languages early on, most American children are just left to what regular public schools offer, with world language usually beginning at the middle school age. Algonquin itself has a faculty of 11 world language teachers trying their best to implement the idea of learning a second language, however, the turnout of bilingual students upon graduation tends to remain quite low. This certainly isn’t isolated to Algonquin, and isn’t at the fault of the educators themselves at all. 

Instead, it is a systemic issue that would likely take a large reorganization of funding in the United States public school system. Teachers all across the country are significantly underpaid, working tirelessly in order to ensure a good education for their students while commonly having large amounts of student loan debt and a family of their own to support. This creates a problem where the people that happen to be bilingual in the United States have no desire to become teachers, and could instead use their qualifications on something with better pay. 

Additionally, schools in the U.S. are extremely underfunded, with aging infrastructure, aging curriculums, and simply not enough money to improve things such as world language education. In Europe for example, with better funded education, it is common for students to graduate knowing three languages, or even more at times, according to a Pew Research study. 

What makes world language education so much more advanced in other countries is that it is taught from a much earlier age. According to research from a BBC article, it is significantly easier for someone to learn a new language at a younger age due to the fact that their developing brains are more receptive to taking in and remembering new information. 

As someone gets older, it just becomes harder to acquire that new language, being the main reason why so few people are bilingual in the United States. If additional funding is given to world languages in public schools, it would certainly be possible for individuals in America to become bilingual.