Expressions not Enough, Second Language Should be Mandatory


By Alisa Patience

Wouldn’t it be great if we as a country could communicate clearly? Wouldn’t it be nice if foreign travelers felt comfortable touring America because the locals could all speak their language? Wouldn’t it be just downright special if I could tell a Spanish child where the bathroom is when he asks so he doesn’t wet himself in front of the cash register? Sounds like heaven to me. Life would be so much easier.

Luckily, that wish is in the process of becoming true. Some elementary and middle school programs, like the Dual Language Immersion Program, integrate foreign language teaching in every day lessons. Utah is one of the states currently offering Dual Language Immersion Programs, where for half the day children are taught in English and for the other half they are taught completely in a second language. The languages currently offered include Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, French and German.

Some children are now sufficiently fluent in the language they are being taught. I’m grateful that such programs exist, and I wish I had secondary language instruction when I was in elementary school. For adults it can be difficult to learn a new language because their brains have lost some of its early plasticity, making it more difficult to retain new information.

It’s a requirement to take two years of foreign language in high school, but an hour every day for two years isn’t enough. I took two years of Spanish and all I learned were colors, the word for “cheese,” “Mi nombre es Alisa,” and the alphabet, which I’ve already mostly forgotten. Dora the Explorer taught me more Spanish than my high school did.

America is what some might call a melting pot. Everywhere you look there are restaurants of ethnic variety, foreign music plays on the radio and many different ethnicities can be found across the continent. For a country that has this multicultural reputation, we’ve been stubbornly and stupidly resistant to learning new languages. In fact, when we visit other countries, we have the audacity to expect all workers to speak English.

Everyone smiles in the same language but happy faces aren’t enough to unify a country. Communication between cultures is essential to continue productivity in this world. If everyone in America were bilingual, the chances for this country to be more unified would greatly increase. Unification is exactly what this country needs right now. How can we help other countries if we don’t even try to communicate in ours?

I, for one, want to be able to converse with the woman who usually does my nails. I would like to be able to give directions to a new immigrant or tourist. I would like to be able to go to various countries Europe and speak the language. And I especially would like to be able to show a little Spanish boy where the bathroom is.

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