Second Languages 1
Running head: Second Languages
Second Languages Starting at the Elementary Level
Natashia M. Johnson
Second Languages 2
Implementing Second Languages at the Elementary Level
"Literacy begins with speaking and listening. Adults are so familiar with these faculties we rarely acknowledge them as complex, learned skills, except when visiting a foreign country,” (Grigg, 2003). The United States is a mixture of cultures. Being bilingual should not be left to non-native speakers of the English Language. Learning a second language should be part of the educational curriculum starting at the elementary level. Educating our children on learning a second language at a younger age will enable them to communicate more effectively, to be equal in the learning of their foreign counterparts, and allowing them to maintain a successful and well-rounded education.
Effective communication has been a concept for adults in various degrees of education, relationships, and in their occupations. The same should hold steadfast for the youth as they start to mature and become young adults. It is best to nurture them from the beginning. Communicating is a skill that one is not born with the ability but one that is learned and adapted development advances. A child’s first communication skills are from
within the home. Its progression is taught from within the educational outlets, such as educational programs.
Television programs that preschool aged school children watch are fundamental in the effects it has on early childhood learning. This is to include its structure that focus on the diversity of languages, mathematics, and literacy. In a recent study conducted by University of Pennsylvania’s Anne Moses on the literacy in television programs viewed by young children they concluded that,” programs that aim to promote literacy in young
children have been found to positively impact specific early literacy skills“(Moses,2008).
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Public television has a creative way of introducing children to other cultures, languages, and the world. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has a variety of children television programs. Sesame Street, has been a long running show that many are
familiar with when it comes to teaching children of all ages about loving to learn on a variety of topics that that will use. Maya and Miguel introduces characters that speak
Spanish, English and American Sign Language. Other shows that introduce languages to children include Clifford, Dragon Tales, and Reading Rainbow (Public Broadcasting
Service [PBS], 2008).
With the introduction of languages at such an early age, language acquisition of a second language could be continued into the elementary level of the curriculum. There have been many studies in showing being bilingual is not going to lead to confusion or continue to function solely as a monolingual child. There is evidence by looking at children at recess. Any playground can be observed, and will easily show interaction of children at the social and behavioral levels. Children that spoke less English and mostly their native tongue will congregate naturally with children they can converse. Children that speak English as well as their native tongue will play with speakers of both languages. They went back and forth between the students translating. There are English-speaking children asking children how to say sentences or words in their language, as if it was a miniature class. Language acquisition is not a recent. People have been learning compound languages or teaching children two languages starting from the time that a person is born.
In 1913 and 1949, Ronjat and Leopold respectively, published detailed descriptions of their children’s simultaneous acquisition of two languages. This language
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acquisition was performed from the time their children were born. Today, it is commonly referred to as bilingual first language acquisition or BFLA. Ronjat’s research involved his
son’s, Louis, simultaneous acquisition of French and German, He explained his son was able to acquire great skill in each language naturally and illustrated no signs of confusion. While Leopold discoveries were not the equivalent. Leopold thought that with his daughter’s, Hildegard, BFLA of English and German were not in concurrence with Ronjat’s findings. Leopold states that he used the one language rule with Hildegard, as
did his wife. There was a time when Hildegard would use words from both languages as if she was confusing the two languages. He believed she felt that she was learning one language and not two. (Genesee & Nicoladis, 2006).
The findings of the latter have sparked various research studies throughout the world. BFLA has proven to be efficient but it is not the only option of learning a second language. This concern has been expressed in a number of ways. However, BFLA might result in impaired cognitive, as well as linguistic, development. Young children can receive benefits from future success of learning a second language through educational resources (Bialystok, 2001).Undoubtedly the diversity amongst each student will ensure the success that they are equal to each other. The concept of John f Kennedy’s famous
quote,” Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”, can easily be applied to native and non-native speakers. A person should not ask for the whole country to speak English, when the country is not English. This country is American.
A person can easily see how diverse the population is in America by walking down the street, around their neighborhoods, their places of worship or visiting schools.
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The United States was built by a population of people from a multitude of nationalities. A nationality brings together an abundance of people that speak a variety of languages and dialects. There are several families, throughout the United States, that are functioning as multilingual households. According to the United States Census Bureau, 92.8 percent of all American households have at least one person that speaks English. That leaves on 7.2 percent households were there is not one English speaker. “In 2000, 18 percent of the
total population aged 5 and over, or 47 million people, reported they spoke a language other than English at home. These figures were up from 14 percent (31.8 million) in 1990 and 11 percent (23.1 million) in 1980. The number of people who spoke a language other than English at home grew by 38 percent in the 1980s and by 47 percent in the 1990s. While the population aged 5 and over grew by one-fourth from 1980 to 2000, the number who spoke a language other than English at home more than doubled” (2007).
That is a tremendous amount of data that says that the United States is diverse. Not to mention, many household members are more than just monolingual. Yet, one of the most important statistics is that members are bilingual starting at age five. In many school systems, five is the starting age for kindergarten. If it is reported that at the minimum age children have moved passed the monolingual stage then the acquisition of learning a second language has a potential to be a successful at the elementary level.
Asia and Europe are at the front for the education in the language arts. Within each of their perspective countries, they have implemented the studying of languages as mandatory requirement in the educational curriculum. By the time, European and Asian nations finish secondary education they speak a minimum of two or three languages. English and their native language are always two of the three. It is easily understood why
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English is a natural choice. In Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and Australia some of the biggest corporations are English-speaking owned conglomerates.
Many foreign visitors are able to speak English quite well, including their children. As Barack Obama had so eloquently stated when he addressed an Atlanta, Georgia high school, “you need to learn to speak a foreign language…and know more than just merci beaucoup”, (2008). It is a shocking realization that the United States educational level is lacking in comparisons to its foreign counterparts.
The curriculums for most academic high schools and universities have made it mandatory for its students to earn credits in a foreign language as part of their diploma or degree program. It would seem logical to implement the study of a foreign language earlier at an earlier stage in education. This can easily be dissected by looking at the study of English as the native language. Take in account the following scenario:
Faith knows only one language by the time she starts school,
English. She learns, during her first though eighth grades, reading,
comprehension, grammar, writing, vocabulary, and spelling all within
the complexities of the English Language. This will continue in high
school advance accordingly. In addition, it is a requirement at her
academic high school to pass and earn two years of credits in a foreign
language of her choice. During her junior and senior years, French is
the language she chooses. Now she must learn what her French
counterpart would have learned during there elementary and middle
schools years, in two years for her to graduate.
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Looking at the previous scenario, it would be easier and more logical if Faith would have learned French as she progressed throughout her education being a dual-language learner. Elementary level children have the cognitive skills and behavior to adapt and learn another language (Bialystok, 2001). It not only teaches them to speak with others but also encourages social behavior amongst them. It encourages students to be able to speak and teach each other as they learn the building blocks of languages but in other subjects that they are studying, too.
Looking back to centuries when education, during the period when kings and queens ruled the world, was a privilege. A student’s tutelage was in a variety of subjects:
mathematics, science, history, poetry, music, dancing, etiquette, and languages. Parents sought to find the best governess or instructors to train their child. Having the ability to have a rich and well-rounded education was critical in the success of finding a suitor or ruling a country. Although the United States is not ruled by kings and queen, the concept can still be applied. Education has been sought by finding the best teachers and structured environments. If that were a fabrication, there would not be private and boarding schools. A person will pay to find the best education available to their child. Political leaders, the rich, the famous, and members of the upper tax brackets send their children to private institutions. The reasoning can be detected that the public school system is lacking. It is not by chance that the children whose parents pay for their education are speakers of foreign language; they are the “crème de la crème”.
In professional aspects, a language is a skill that companies look for in a potential applicant. By looking at the diversity among the population, it is imperative that a company be able to communicate and provided the services and products those
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consumers’ desires. Companies are about making a profit. Furthermore, with the necessary skills that a potential employee has, companies are willing to pay extra to ensure their profitability. Many of these positions are being filled by those who have learned and maintain a proficiency in a foreign language. Many of those applicants are not native born of the United States. By improving language art programs that include learning a foreign language in the United States’ educational system will allow for a more
competitive employee. This competitive employee would steer away the comments that people make about dealing with non-native speakers.
Some people are annoyed that non-native English speakers do not speak English well and are servicing the public. Yet, the claims about members in white-collar occupations are not widely stigmatized in the same manner as blue-collar occupations. Mostly blue-collar professions are the majority of the complaints. Customer Service is one of the jobs that enable interaction with people of all lifestyles. Companies seek out an applicant pool that has language skills readily available. Maybe companies are going after people who speak enough English and another language fluently. However, as diverse as the United States is, a country without an official language, why must a person speak like a natural born citizen? Whether the language is English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, or other foreign language every student should have the opportunity to receive the best education.
In conclusion, by enabling children with the ability of learning a second language, it will allow them to express what they need to convey to more than just people like them do. Learning comes not just from people who teach. It comes from other avenues as well. Learning is accessible from reading, watching, listening. The best learning comes from
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conversations with another and having the ability to do it in any language of choice. Congress has not set an official language and why should one be set at the elementary school level. The children need an education that will sustain them and give them limitless opportunities. Society continues to move forward and try to better the Earth’s
environment, invent new medical breakthroughs, promote peace, and end hunger. Educating the youth needs to be a priority. In order for them to speak, learn, and progress in life, they will need the necessary tools for a strong education, the capacity to achieve a competitive drive, and ability of becoming an effective communicator. Learning a second language is a tool that needs to be utilized at the beginning.
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Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in Development: Language, Literacy, and Cognition.
Cambridge, UK, New York Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from:
http://libsys.uah.edu:3059/Search/SearchResults.aspx on July 15, 2008.
Genesee, F., & Nicoladis, E. (2006). Bilingual acquisition. In E. Hoff & M. Shatz (eds.),
Handbook of Language Development. Oxford, England. Blackwell.
Moses, A. (2008). Impacts of television viewing on young children's literacy
development in the USA: A review of the literature. Journal of Early Childhood
Literacy. Vol. 8, pp. 67-102.
Public Broadcasting Service. (2008). PBS Parents Guide. Retrieved July 11, 2008, from:
U.S. Census Bureau. (2003). Language Use and English-Speaking Ability (C2KBR-29).
Washington, DC: United States Department of Commerce, Economic and