Bilingual Education: a Life-Long Advantage

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Bilingual Education: A Life-Long Advantage
Alexa Adams

It is concerning to see the U.S. continue to academically fall behind countries like China and Finland. The Program for International Student Assessment or PISA, is an international standardized test taken by 15 year-olds in developing countries. The U.S.‘s Secretary of State, Arne Duncan (2010), was disappointed in the results, “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated,” (paragraph 10). Requiring United States schools to teach students a second language should be a mandate, especially since students in many countries of the developed world are ahead of us academically. This academic separation is occurring because other countries are making an effort to require students to be fluent in more than one language. It would be extremely beneficial for the U.S. to require it’s educational system to teach students a second language. Acquiring the skill of bilingualism will greatly increase students’ cognitive skills. Understanding Bilingualism

It is necessary to be aware of the difference between a foreign language and a second language. A foreign language is any language spoken in a country other than it’s official language, or one that is learned mainly with intentions of cultural insight. A second language, however, is one which is learned fluently after already acquiring a native or mother tongue. With a second language one becomes immersed into the culture. A second language is what would be taught in schools when striving for bilingualism of students. The goal would be that students could effectively communicate in at least two languages -- making them bilingual. This difference is important to note because being bilingual produces more educational benefits than studying a foreign language would. Although foreign language may build some cognitive skill, a second language continuously builds cognitive skills the will last and benefit a student throughout their entire academic career. Testifying for Bilingualism

Bilingualism provides life-long benefits. When my mother was a young girl, her family immigrated from Belgium to Canada, and then later to the U.S. Though she only lived in Belgium for four years, she was fluent in Flemish -- the language spoken in northern Belgium -- by the time she immigrated. She also acquired a little bit of French while in Canada, and continued to study it for four years in high school. Having a bilingual mother who studied a third language has shown me the importance of learning an additional language. Although she was forced to move to a new country, twice, that spoke a completely different language she went on to earn a BA in journalism and has not only taught more about how to creatively and successfully use language to communicate then I would have ever learned in a high school classroom, but she has raised me to be open and curious about other cultures and ways of life. My mother’s experience proves to me that knowing more than one language allows for a better understanding of not just languages -- but multiple other subjects and cultures -- leading to an increase of cognitive skill. Building Language

Bilingualism enables students to fully understand their first language, and the better they understand their first language, the better they will fully learn and comprehend a second. Stewart (2005) states that bilingualism makes students more aware of subtleties in communication and interactions (p. 13). Being aware of these subtleties is extremely beneficial for students. It allows them to notice parts of language and connect them to a completely different language. They are then able to compare and contrast different elements of each language, helping them to develop their native language further. The students are able to take parts of a sentence from language and compare it to parts of another language and see...
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