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Why Foreign Language Should Begin in Kindergarten
A Chinese Proverb states, “To learn a new language is to have one more window from which to look at the world,” (Piller). Many would perceive a foreign language to be complex, incomprehensible, and devalued to emotional connectedness. Many would also argue that learning as adults are more appropriate. Although, modern society has shown the diversity of language due to cultural acceptance and globalization. The modern world also conveys the opportunities that a foreign language provides. In a progressing mind in an early stage, grasping a new language enables children to attain new goals efficiently. This must be taken advantage of since a child's memory diminishes as they mature. When children become mature, then they have already learned the significance of emotional connectivity. Ultimately, foreign language should begin in kindergarten. With this, initiating a new language in an early stage improves academic achievement, increased mental flexibility, encourages diverse languages in the United States, and enhance tolerance and connection.
First of all, foreign language should start in kindergarten because young learners excel more in academics. Often, dual-language students are compared to ordinary students to see who are more likely to be advanced in school. It says, “English learners in kindergarten, those who were randomly assigned to DLI were three percentage points more likely to have reached English proficiency by grade 6. This effect was stronger for English learners whose native language matched the partner language, for whom the effect was as high as 14 percentage points in sixth grade,” (Steele, et al). Specifically, the establishing of the Dual Language Immersion program persuade youths to solely focus on the importance of language. Meaning, if children are being taught, their academic achievements outstand those who are monolingual. Not only that, kids have the opportunity to gain a solid foundation in reading which is seen to be very essential in their future. With this, as children adopt a new language, their education life will be effortless as their knowledge becomes mastered. Adding on, the advantage of a dual language initiative is the mastery and consistency of children. In fact, it mentions, “Portland Public Schools (PPS) students randomly assigned to dual-language immersion programs outperformed their peers on state reading tests by 13 percent of a standard deviation in grade 5 and by 22 percent of a standard deviation in grade 8,” (Steele, et al). The standard deviation shows the distribution of kids performance despite the fact that tests can be challenging. Clearly, if kids start in kindergarten, they will consistently improve to show their advanced knowledge. Their proficiency then reflects upon the benefit of learning a new language that expands the thinking of early learners. If children resume, they will be able to earn a deeper understanding of their environment; which has proven the effectiveness of the program. In the same manner, the application of a Dual English Program compares the condition with a foreign language class that incorporates the program versus the other class that does not. According to Rand Corporation, “It is also noteworthy that by eighth grade, on average, PPS DLI students reached intermediate levels of proficiency in the partner languages as measured by the STAMP 4S (Standards-based Measurement of Proficiency), compared with the novice levels of proficiency attained by PPS eighth-graders studying Spanish in non-immersion foreign language classes,” (Steele, et al). With the use of the immersion program, the comparison between two foreign language classes inspires the ones in the program to be ahead. Therefore, interaction with native speakers and English speakers are utilized. With the usage of combined languages, students are able to incorporate their learning, resulting in overall success. Earlier exposure means greater concentration. Overall, children should be encouraged to explore a new language. This way, they attain a higher possibility of being successful academically which leads to more open doors in the future.
Even more, the skill of being multilingual increases a youth’s mental flexibility and creativity. If two or more languages are implemented in a daily manner, a child is more likely to expand their brain development. According to previous research, “The habitual use of 2 languages leads to improved cognitive control in young and older adults and in preschool and school-aged children,” (Kovács and Mehler). In other words, an adequate cognitive control signifies better behavioral control, better attention, and better allocation. With these traits, children are active in their daily routines. Meaning, more awareness is brought to discipline and wise thinking. This is a significant part of development because possessing cognitive control allows children to think innovatively. Now, if children have the ability to think innovatively, this also depends on their cultural environment. In fact, it says, “In our study, however, bilinguals significantly decreased their perseverative responses and increased anticipations to the new location, which suggests that a multilingual environment improves aspects of EF even in preverbal infants,” (Kovács and Mehler). To clarify, EF stands for executive functions or controls that include planning, monitoring, and apprehension. This implies that being surrounded in a diverse language environment allows a young individual to feel attached to the adversity of a language. The executive functions show a significant difference in the attention that is mainly dominant. With the pleasure of anticipation, even infants are able to grasp the language faster. Equally important, infants are not only focused on anticipation but also able to distinguish identical rhythmic class or similar sounds. According to a research of PNAS, “Two- to four-month-olds learn to distinguish languages belonging to the same rhythmic class. Later on, in the second half of their first year, infants show exposure-dependent changes in phonetic discrimination. These studies suggest that well before infants start speaking they have already acquired crucial properties of their maternal language,” (Kovács and Mehler). Specifically, if two- to four- month- olds already have the capability of obtaining their first language, this indicates that they can do well in kindergarten to learn another language. If they are encouraged to a foreign class surrounding at an early stage, they are able to gather much more information to further expand their phonetic interpretation. With this in mind, this promotes parents to consider this initiative to have their children mature with adequate cognitive control, anticipation, and adaptation.
Furthermore, another major reason why foreign language should begin in kindergarten especially in the United States because of the increasing cultural diversity. Nonetheless, Americans have shown a lack of importance to foreign language and nationalism. This means that the demand for foreign language must become much more prevalent. Comparing the study of language, the United States is behind Europe leaving a drastic gap. According to Quartz data, “Only 20 percent of the U.S. have students that study a foreign language but Europe has an average of 92 percent,” (Livni). Meaning, Europe expects a passing rate for language standardized tests while the United States require simpler standards. Europe participates well in foreign languages due to the high distribution of different tongues such as Spanish, French, or Germany. In the same manner, the United States does have diversity culturally, yet the usage of a foreign language is almost non-existent. If more languages are created for kindergarteners, the United States will catch up with Europe. To add on, there are some of the lowest participation rates in the United States conveyed. It mentions, “But most states have less than 25% participation. In New Mexico, Arizona and Arkansas, only 9% study a foreign language,” (Livni). Again, a similar pattern implies that America lacks the priority of foreign language when it has plenty of benefits. If the United States maintains it as a country to stay behind, this signifies that the United States is not willing to change the language standards nor challenge students. If students are not challenged, the United States as a whole will represent a country that thinks highly of itself. In other words, the circulating controversy leads to the egotistical trait of Americans. The Quartz data shows, “English is an official language in 59 countries, the first language of 400 million speakers worldwide, spoken by a million more,” (Livni). Basically, English is a lingua franca in countries around the globe, which makes it pressureless for students. As the capital of lingua franca, Americans would think that English is mainly used in the global economy and trade. The United States might see that isolating foreign languages is a good idea. Although, this is a threat for countries around the world as the English dominate most countries. Clearly, the study of a new language must be demanded especially for kindergarteners so that the United States develop a more culturally diverse country along with diverse languages. With diverse languages, people will be able to connect and have more sympathy for each other.
Lastly, foreign languages that are initiated in kindergarten will enhance cultural tolerance and connection. When people have awareness with a bilingual environment, there is the sentimental feeling to keep it and even develop it. A real story is explained by a poet how a foreign language has shaped her identity. Marilyn Chin claims, “Yes. The daughter is the one who wants to preserve it. In my own case, my undergraduate degree was in Chinese literature, and I went back to Taiwan to try to learn Classical Chinese… We’re trying to preserve our past through food, and food also asserts our difference,” (Moyers, 77). Chin encourages herself to learn another language to know more about her culture. Stating an achievement of willingness to learn a foreign language, connection such as food brings people together as it symbolizes unity and understanding. Meaning, foreign languages must begin in kindergarten so that children grow to have pride in their own traditions because learning a new language gives them an opportunity to be more open-minded. With this, children mature with a knowing that they can empathize with the same cultural background with their peers. Along with this, languages must be preserved for children as it empowers their ethnic background. Garrett Kaoru Hongo who is a Japanese-Hawaiian explains his perspective, “I share with so many Japanese Americans of my generation a feeling that we have a story to tell, that we have a responsibility to that generation who suffered the humiliation and the loss and who did not have their presence in this country endorsed,” (Moyers, 202). Mr. Hongo emphasizes to his audience that diverse tongues must be in recognition, it must be something that people would be proud to share with their loved ones, with their friends. Language must be shed into light because it cannot lead to extinction. Extinction shows that a language was weak, or vulnerable. However, language also conveys the rightful responsibility of those who truly preserve or learn a new language. Meaning, if young learners such as kindergarteners push ahead, the United States as a nation will no longer be in a position of doubts or humiliation. Instead, kindergartners will give hope to those who felt their culture had been assimilated. That is why providing dual language education for children will not only shed hope, but it will also be a part of a child’s identity. Naomi Shihab Nye mentions, “Remember that all is in motion, is growing, is you. Remember the language comes from this. Remember the dance that language is, that life is. Remember,” (Moyers, 163). The author uses the repetition of the word “Remember” to emphasize the significance of language, how language is part of someone’s life to be able to connect with the world. Adapting a new language is almost like a new adventure because it leads to many opportunities to relate to other ethnic backgrounds. For children, learning a new language would be a great exploration because while young, it will be maintained in their hearts, to strive to be a better individual. Ultimately, teaching a new language to kindergarteners will allow them to feel strongly of the people they interact with, resulting in a more promising relationship and future.
On the other hand, many claims that juveniles are more likely to excel in grasping a new language. According to research observed by scientists, “8-year-olds, 12-year-olds, and young adults. The adults scored higher than both younger groups, and the 12-year-olds also did better than the younger children,” (Hardach). Some tests prove this is the case that children transitioning to adolescence are more efficient in learning a new language than younger kids. However, this example does not prove any statistical data and only brings up a point to why children should learn a new language in the first place. Once children as young as three years old are exposed to a foreign language, they are able to cope with the complexity and even advance at such an early age. Not only that, if even infants are surrounded by a second language environment, they are more likely to adapt and use their brain development productively. Also, despite the academic acceleration of juveniles, parents should be motivated to assist their young children to explore the fun in a new language, that way, kids are able to unite and have strong tolerance among each other. It is the early outlook of children that will make their lives easier and accept the conservation of cultural identities.
At the end of the day, foreign language enables a child to have a wider perspective of the world, to view the world with open-mindedness. In collecting knowledge from new languages, kindergarteners are the perfect audience to acquire their language. There are advantages to motivating children with the initiative such as outstanding performance in academics, enhanced intelligence, encourage the participation of the program in the United States, and increase sympathy and support from one another. To young kids that are learning every day, incorporating the exercise of a new language gives them a chance to gain independence and value the backgrounds of those around them. What the United States should not do is to isolate its own country from acknowledging new languages for children. If the United States maintains its prideful trait, it would not be considered as a country with happiness or justice. It would not be just if the United States ignores the importance of foreign language as its language is a lingua franca around the universe.
Nonetheless, that is why parents should strive to lead their children in learning new languages. In this way, children will blossom as a disciplined and compassionate individual. In today’s world, tolerance is what the world needs to unite everyone. One act of tolerance matters as it diffuses. Eventually, if foreign languages are continued for kindergartners, there will be great leaders in the future, embracing diversity, and embracing uniqueness. After all, there is no bond without language.
Piller, Ingrid. “Inspirational Words of Wisdom.” 75 Chinese Proverbs, 13 Jan. 2014.
Steele, Jennifer L., et al. “Dual-Language Immersion Programs Raise Student Achievement in English.” RAND Corporation, 3 Nov. 2017.
Kovács, Ágnes Melinda, and Jacques Mehler. “Cognitive Gains in 7-Month-Old Bilingual Infants.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 21 Apr. 2009.
Livni, Ephrat. “Only 20% of US Kids Study a Language in School-Compared to 92% in Europe.” Quartz, Quartz, 7 Aug. 2018.
Moyers, Bill D., et al. The Language of Life: a Festival of Poets. Anchor Books/Broadway Books, 2001.
Hardach, Sophie. “Future - What Is the Best Age to Learn a Language?” BBC, BBC, 26 Oct. 2018.