January 13, 2009

High Schoolers Debate Two-Year Language Requirement

As I was surfing the Web, I was pleased to stumble across a newspaper column featuring American high school students debating whether or not a two-year language requirement for graduation was enough. Most of the responses appear to be well thought-out. Two of the students advocated having more than two years of language experience which surprised me.

I was, of course, saddened to see that to graduate high school in these students' district, one only needs to complete two years of a foreign language. When I attended high school (and this wasn't very long ago), students had the option of taking either two years of one language and then two years of another or three years. Most of the students, like moi, took more than three years in a single language.

Yes, that's right. Five years of German (in eighth grade, which was part of middle school we had the option of taking a foreign language).

Of course, I think foreign language education should start sooner, such as in grade school. Believe it or not, the first elementary school I attended had a nice lady come in every week to give us Spanish lessons. After three years my family moved to the Richmond area and our school district did not offer any language instruction whatsoever in the earlier grades. So whatever Spanish I learned, I lost a long time ago.

Out of curiosity, I checked my old school district's website and was pleasantly pleased to learn the district is trying to implement foreign language classes in elementary school. Too late for me but a good start for a more culturally-attuned generation.

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