Early Language Learning: Good or Bad?

USA Today featured an article on a growing trend, as well as personal and professional interest of mine: early language immersion:

Azure Warrenfeltz is fluent in Japanese and Spanish. She also can understand bits of French, German, Arabic and Italian, and she soon hopes to learn some Mandarin Chinese.

Azure is 4 years old.

“I’m smarter than my father. He can only speak one language. Muchas gracias!” she says playfully.

In today’s globalized world, Azure is one of many young American children whose parents insist her education include foreign languages.

More children learn more than one language – USATODAY.com

I’ve blogged about this before and find the learning that my daughter has gone through this year amazing. She can carry on a brief conversation with her Chinese teacher. When we practices her flashcards (which had, fortunately, English phonetic spelling of the Chinese characters/pictures) over the holiday break, she often was correcting me. “Dad,” she would moan, “you aren’t saying it right. Say it like this…” The teacher becomes the learner.

So, what I am dismayed by in this USA Today story is the little interactive poll that rests beside it. “Bilingual Babies: How do you feel about children learning multiple languages?” While I think that the poll itself offers some interesting choices, I am dismayed at the wording in the first choice of responses: “I’m happy with my child speaking English only.” The phrasing of this response uses rhetoric of the “English only” movement, one that is built on a type of linguistic intolerance that I don’t think we can afford. Besides the racist and classist undertones imbued within this view, it is just plain myopic for us to think that being monolingual will be suitable for our children (or, any of us, for that matter).

At any rate, I was having a conversation with a foreign language teaching colleague today and she was thrilled to hear about my daughter’s learning. Her simple response: “This is what experts in my field have been calling for for many, many years.” Keep the multiliterate classrooms coming, both in terms of their linguistic and technological diversities.

Blogged with Flock

2 thoughts on “Early Language Learning: Good or Bad?”

  1. It is so rewarding to read entries such as this – hoping that the more we get the word out to parents and educators and administrators, the more common it will become to give our very young children her in the United States what other countries have been giving their own young for centuries!

    The gift of language is so easily received during the first five years of life, and I enjoy sharing that insight nationwide as I present keynotes and workshops to fellow early childhood development educators and providers! It will take time to break through these archaic barriers, but with posting such as yours and efforts such as mine combined with the ever-shrinking society in which we live – our youth will become bilingual and maybe even trilingual as we move forward to stay on the cutting edge of global exchange, trade and communication.

    Happy Educating! ¡Sea Feliz Educando!

    Beth Butler
    Creator of the Boca Beth Language Learning Series
    Raise A Bilingual Child the Fun and Easy Way
    http://www.bocabeth.com

    Like

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