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Old 01-12-2004, 06:16 PM   #1
rapscalious rob
 
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Language

Foreign languages are poorly taught in the US compared with Europe. Where I went to school, foreign languages (specifically, French, Spanish, and German) were offered as electives in middle school and only two years were required in high school for college admission purposes. As I remember, a study cited in an old issue of US News and World Report suggested that a personís capacity for learning other languages fluently peters off at around the age of 6. Certainly, I hope you would agree, a personís capacity for learning new languages is significantly diminished by the time said person is 11 or 12 years old-- especially if the person isnít exposed to other languages very much. Anyway, I have no idea what the statistics are but I donít think very many people in the US are multilingual.

As citizens of the US, are we not also citizens of the world? If we have the audacity to attack sovereign nations unilaterally, should we not also have the decency to at least speak their languages?

I donít want to limit this discussion just to the way language is taught in the US. With the internet bringing people together in unprecedented ways as a global community, It seems to me that fluency in other languages - or lack of it - is an important issue.
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Old 01-12-2004, 09:05 PM   #2
Deus751
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Okay oKay

Alrighty. well am i supposed to argue that? I mean its the debate hall and i don't think i can. haha it is a serious problem. except foir the fact that americans are lazy and ignorant. (ha can't spell either). anyways how often do people go out side the country? rarley and usually its initiated by learning another language. other wise many americans are quite content to sit at home and just watch TV. Those who want to venture out side this relm of confort and explore the world physicly and mentaly. they will usually take classes in the language that interests them. a few examples are politics. many people who choose to make a career of this know that they need to be multilingual or they will not succed. another is the introduvtion of anime in to this country. an inceasing number of people, childeren and adult alike are learning Japanese and introducing another life style into the the already existing american culture. The change in the amount of multilingual people will increase when the time is needed. The multilingual problem is indeed a problem but not to the normal american household and life style. untill things change in our need to comunicate the problem will exist in our schools and out of. but things are changing.
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Old 01-12-2004, 09:05 PM   #3
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Bonsoir mon ami le Anglais c'est non problem pour moi. So here we are . I totally agree with your sentiments .At high school we as pupils were introduced to French(language not polish) at 11 years of age .Very boring and for most pupils quite a challenge .Me included .Then at 13 years old we could choose to swap to German .This i presumed would be even more of a challenge so i opted for Computer Studies instead .

This language policy has been in place in this country (UK) for at least the last 100 years with regard to living language as opposed to Latin etc .Now my wife 's mother is from Amsterdam .Of course this makes all her relatives ..you guessed it DUTCH.During our regular drive's from Calais in France through Belgium to the Netherlands we have never encountered a Dutch or Belgium citizen who could not speak at the very least passable English .Ok so in France its a different matter . The only people we encountered last year in the Netherlands who were not too good were immigrants . My wifes family speak of English at school from 5years old .In fact 2 of her cousins speak 5 languages fluently . I know that Germany is also pretty good when it comes to their linguistic capability but being at the centre of Europe they should be .Early exposure to other languages from a young age is very very important .So do not feel that it is just the Us that is failing to deliver an effective language programme.It's English speaking countries in general i presume .Canada does'nt really count as French is so widely spoken there..I wounder how it is in Australia and New Zealand for instance .

I personally am fluent in 2 languages .English and The language of love !
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Old 01-13-2004, 06:21 PM   #4
Frieda
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yep, in the NLs we start very early with english.

maybe it's easier if i explain the school system first.

"lower" school: age 5 - 12
"high" school: age 12 - 16/17/18 depending on the school type (some schools prepare for university, others for practical education such as car maintenance or administrative jobs)

in "lower" school english class started at age 9, but i learned quite a lot of words and short sentences before that, thanks to my parents and english cartoons (subtitled, not dubbed). i think i could say "care bears" and "my little pony" before i knew the word "breakfast".


anyway, then there's high school. my high school prepared me for university, which means it automatically takes 6 years. the grades equal the number of years you're in school (not counting doubled years of course).

english was obligatory all through my high school years, as well as dutch. this counts for every school, even "practical" schools like i mentioned above.

french and german were obligatory in grade 1 to 3, after 3rd grade we could drop one of them. that makes 2 obligatory foreign languages through all 6 years of high school.

i also followed 2 months of spanish, which i can read a bit, but not write or speak.

then was also 6 years of latin and greek, also read only. this was opt-in.

yep, language education is pretty good here. but then again, only english is obligatory everywhere. turkish and arabic are taught on some schools as well because of the large numbers of immigrants, but weren't available yet when i was in high school.


i'm curious, how's the school system and language courses organised in the US? is english obligatory?

sometimes it's funny to see that the US peope on this board produce more spelling and grammar errors than the non-US people (i know, my grammar sucks too sometimes..)
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Old 01-14-2004, 10:55 AM   #5
jaymirror
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I've studied in Italy and although Italians are not famous for their fluence in foreign languages i think there are a few good aspects in that system too. Similarly to Holland, in Italy everyone has to study at least one foreign language mandatorily. Usually that's English, but many people only do French and that partly explains why many people in Italy don't speak a word of English. (So if you are planning to go to Italy consider refreshing your French at least).
Also what's good is that we are taught our own language, that is Italian, very deeply and for all the duration of school, which is similar to what described by Frieda.
So we have to learn grammar and syntax concepts, and that helps when learning other languages. It also helps in understanding the way we think and communicate. Many people mandatorily study latin in high school and some also ancient greek. These are taught not just to be able to read the classics of ancient literature but also to keep your mind trained in logics and language skills.
What's bad in the italian system is that we very rarely have native speaker teachers so our pronunciation and listening skills remain quite bad unless we undertake some private initiatives like summer schools (the English hate our children for they colonize their cities in the summer and are very loud ).
Also it's a pity that we always dub foreign movies. Since i live in Holland i have learned to appreciate undertitles.
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Old 01-15-2004, 06:43 PM   #6
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To me, learning a new language is much like learning how to SCUBA dive. Sure, one could live an enjoyable, meaningful life without learning a new language or learning how to dive. But, if an individual takes a small step to learn how to interact in another world, their life will be forever changed by the experience.

Of course, some try both and turn away- but without first experiencing, however brief, the existence of a whole other complete world beyond their own.

So yeah, give every child that chance to learn, but don't force it. I hated taking French class for seven years, but later I loved being able teach it. I'd force myself to stay awake for Japanese class, but I was grateful for those classroom hours when I needed the language to buy my dinner. I was bored stiff in the classroom for dive instruction, but it was all redeemed in the pool when I could breathe underwater for the first time. What freedom!

Give them the tools, but allow the chance to understand what those tools can do. Otherwise, it's just a mind exercise.
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Old 01-16-2004, 04:07 AM   #7
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education is free in many other countries
funding for schools in other countries much exceeds funding for schools in the US
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Old 01-17-2004, 12:09 AM   #8
Frieda
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in what countries?
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Old 01-17-2004, 02:05 AM   #9
fodder
 
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hm idano
maybe in china

it's cheap in most of the EU
i guess it's not 0 in very many countries but i think the cost is minimal many places
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Old 01-17-2004, 07:00 AM   #10
rapscalious rob
 
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Wow! Beautiful posts

Duke: that second one is good to know

Quote:
Frieda:
sometimes it's funny to see that the US peope on this board produce more spelling and grammar errors than the non-US people
This made me chuckle. Thanks

Yes, English is obligatory- seeing as how itís the official language. Strangely enough, however, it isnít very well taught. I hated English class in middle school (age 10-13). Bah- I hated middle school in general. Some of the worst years of my life.

I took a bilingual (English/Spanish) kindergarden class. It served me well when I later took Spanish.
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Old 01-20-2004, 04:12 PM   #11
dalang
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Quote:
TTD sayeth
Early exposure to other languages from a young age is very very important .So do not feel that it is just the Us that is failing to deliver an effective language programme.It's English speaking countries in general i presume .Canada does'nt really count as French is so widely spoken there..I wounder how it is in Australia and New Zealand for instance .
Can't say for Australia, but in New Zealand all children learn Maori, the native language. And since most colleges encourage a year abroad before enrollment, I would gather some basic foreign language is taught as well.
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