Hey there Sign in to join this conversationNew here? Join for free

Should children be taught foreign languages from a young age?

Announcements Posted on
Post on TSR and win a prize! Find out more... 10-04-2014
    • Thread Starter
    • 0 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    I was speaking to my cousin (who has two young daughters) the other day, and he was saying that he didn't like how the kids' program "Dora the Explorer" introduces children to Spanish at an early age. He said that he felt it was more important for kids to get a thorough grasp on English before they start to learn another language.

    I agree with him to an extent, but aren't young children supposed to be really good at picking up other languages? I also think that it's a bit sad that so many of us in this country are unable to speak anything other than English, when in many countries it's the norm to be fluent in two, three or even more languages.

    I know that by the time I left primary school (back in 2001...I'm so old ) the only foreign language teaching we'd received was a handful of casual Spanish lessons which began in year 6 and only took place once every couple of weeks. Also, at my secondary school at least, it wasn't compulsory to take a foreign language beyond year 9. Not sure if it's different now, though.

    Does our education system take foreign languages seriously enough? Is English enough these days or are we slightly out of touch with Europe and the rest of the world in general? Would children benefit from being taught, for example, French, German or Spanish, from the beginning of primary school? Would you also like to see more "alien" (though globally important) languages introduced? Chinese? Arabic?
    • 13 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    Definitely. I 100% think primary school children should have to learn a MFL from as young an age as possible. It wouldn't affect their grasp of English(I communicated in three languages as a child, and I turned out fine!), they would learn the language MUCH quicker than an adult learner, other languages would be consequently easier to learn, and there are countless other benefits to bilingualism. They'd be advantaged in the job market, and studies show speaking two languages staves off Alzheimer's disease!

    This already happens in other countries (mostly the ones with better education systems!) so the UK is just behind, in my opinion.

    The main problem I imagine is the lack of appropriate teachers. They couldn't start doing this without the considerable cost of hiring new language-specialised teachers, since lots of teachers at the moment probably don't have the capacity to teach the chosen language well. It's unfortunate, but I don't see it happening soon. :9
    • 6 followers
    Online

    ReputationRep:
    Bengali, Portuguese and Mandarin need to be the languages taught in schools nowadays. When today's kiddiewinx grow up, they will be working for Indian, Brazilian, or Chinese countries as they have the best economies. What an insult for us Brits that we get stuck learning French and German at GCSE level. Jeez, do the Government think we are all working class heroes who will only holiday in Calais or a Rhine cruise or summat? :mad:
    • 2 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    Yes, in fact surely learning a second language would help children get a better understanding of English too. (coz thats what happened to me when I started French)
    However, I think there needs to be more emphasis on Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese rather than French and German
    • Thread Starter
    • 0 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Isambard Kingdom Brunel)
    Bengali, Portuguese and Mandarin need to be the languages taught in schools nowadays. When today's kiddiewinx grow up, they will be working for Indian, Brazilian, or Chinese countries as they have the best economies. What an insult for us Brits that we get stuck learning French and German at GCSE level. Jeez, do the Government think we are all working class heroes who will only holiday in Calais or a Rhine cruise or summat? :mad:
    Are French and German not good starting points though? I think the similarities in alphabet, structure and vocabulary make them a fairly easy way to learn the techniques and dicipline required to learn new languages. Not to mention the fact that they're both working languages of the EU, which, whether you're pro-EU or not, makes them fairly important to British people IMO.

    I do agree that more emphasis should be placed on the languages of India and China, and that the younger a child is when they're introduced the better.
    • Thread Starter
    • 0 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by MissMuffin95)
    Yes, in fact surely learning a second language would help children get a better understanding of English too. (coz thats what happened to me when I started French)
    I definitely agree with this. I had absolutely no idea what the subjunctive was until I learned about it in French. I also didn't didn't really appreciate or distinguish between the number of different tenses we use in English, in that I used them correctly but didn't really think about it (if you know what I mean!).
    • 5 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    Children only need to be taught what's relevant to their lives. Making learning foreign languages mandatory should not be enforced because some children will never need to know it, so it's just a waste of time. If a parent wants their child to learn a foreign language there are plenty of ways to go about this already.
    • 1 follower
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    Yes. But, **** European languages, should be either Russian or Mandarin or Arabic or if we really have to include a European language then Spanish considering it's spoken a lot in South America as well.
    • 5 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    Definitely. Right from primary 1!!
    • 2 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    Definitely. I wish I was taught Spanish/Italian from Infant School. I would probably be fluent by now. Young Children pick up languages fairly easily. I learnt Hindi just from listening to my parents talk. Having said that, extra lessons would help, because I can't read and write it, nor can I speak it fluently.

    However I can understand it fully when spoken
    • 6 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Dusty12)
    Definitely. I 100% think primary school children should have to learn a MFL from as young an age as possible. It wouldn't affect their grasp of English(I communicated in three languages as a child, and I turned out fine!), they would learn the language MUCH quicker than an adult learner, other languages would be consequently easier to learn, and there are countless other benefits to bilingualism. They'd be advantaged in the job market, and studies show speaking two languages staves off Alzheimer's disease!

    This already happens in other countries (mostly the ones with better education systems!) so the UK is just behind, in my opinion.

    The main problem I imagine is the lack of appropriate teachers. They couldn't start doing this without the considerable cost of hiring new language-specialised teachers, since lots of teachers at the moment probably don't have the capacity to teach the chosen language well. It's unfortunate, but I don't see it happening soon. :9
    Sauce?

    It depends on what the age is, children growing up in a bilingual household certainly do develop communication skills slower than those speaking exclusively one language. Whether or not that is a significant problem isn't really looked at as of yet.

    I see no point in teaching some children French when they can't even write English. It's the same argument as there's no point trying to teach a child economics when they can't even do simple maths. There are children leaving primary school without being able to read/write; shouldn't eradicating these instances be a more primary concern than trying to get them to speak another language?

    Bearing in mind that if you don't routinely use the language they'll have immense difficulty using it for anything career related in the future as they'll just forget it. For example, I learnt French at GCSE to a good standard as well as Welsh. How much Welsh and French can I speak now? Bugger all, I can't even remember simple vocabulary because it's been three years. In bilingual countries it's different as they switch between languages and use them almost every day. There is simply no point in blanket teaching children in Britain Spanish for example. Those resources should be spent elsewhere.
    • 2 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by edd360)
    Children only need to be taught what's relevant to their lives. Making learning foreign languages mandatory should not be enforced because some children will never need to know it, so it's just a waste of time. If a parent wants their child to learn a foreign language there are plenty of ways to go about this already.
    It's always helpful. They get introduced to another culture, if they go on holiday they can communicate easily, if they want to live there later in life they can, and employers value language skills highly as it lets them to business with another country. Sticking to English only keeps children's future prospects inside a closed box.
    • 0 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    I was discussing this with a teacher some time ago. We both agreed that primary school students ought to learn foreign languages, but that the problem is the lack of qualified staff to teach it. It takes a proper linguist to teach a language, as opposed to teachers reading up on maths or science before teaching the lesson. Thus, the poor takeup of languages at uni and above, leads to a lack of skilled teachers to enable such education during primary school.

    It's a vicious cycle.
    • 3 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    I don't know how much good it will do. This is the sort of thing that has to be led by demand rather than government decree and past experience has shown we at best end up with a smattering of the language rather than any level of fluency. I think this is something parents themselves should be teaching to their offspring rather than some half-hearted and quite expensive government initiative.
    • 1 follower
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    Deffo. British/English speaking kids are allready disadvantaged because of this. Its the schools cutting back on languages-have been for the past 15 years.
    • 4 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    Of course children should get taught languages from a young age and I think it's ridiculous to suggest that a programme like 'Dora the Explorer' is a bad thing because it teaches a few words of Spanish I do also think that children need a better and more in-depth understanding of English grammar (tenses, clauses etc) so that they can transfer this knowledge when learning foreign languages and make it easier to do so.
    • 10 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by edd360)
    Children only need to be taught what's relevant to their lives. Making learning foreign languages mandatory should not be enforced because some children will never need to know it, so it's just a waste of time. If a parent wants their child to learn a foreign language there are plenty of ways to go about this already.
    How can you possibly know though what your child will need 15 years down the line? I consider language learning the most important help a parent can provide to their children. The possibilities a new language opens are endless both intellectually and practically (so many more job opportunities, ability to study and live in different countries etc)
    Ideally I want my child to speak 2-3 languages by 18 (excluding English and Greek/Hindi which hopefully it will learn from me and my bf.)
    • 5 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by ThatPerson)
    It's always helpful. They get introduced to another culture, if they go on holiday they can communicate easily, if they want to live there later in life they can, and employers value language skills highly as it lets them to business with another country. Sticking to English only keeps children's future prospects inside a closed box.
    I do see your point, but not everything you said applies to all people. Using the same logic why not also teach children how to cook? Or how to write a computer program? Or how to play chess?

    There's always more things children can learn, my point is why limit it to a foreign language? Not everyone goes on holiday, there will be many people where learning X language will never be needed, so learning it will have been a waste of time. As I said, if it is known that a child can make use of a foreign language, there are plenty of current available options to teach it to them.
    • 1 follower
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by edd360)
    Children only need to be taught what's relevant to their lives. Making learning foreign languages mandatory should not be enforced because some children will never need to know it, so it's just a waste of time. If a parent wants their child to learn a foreign language there are plenty of ways to go about this already.
    The same argument can be made about absolutely everything we teach children. If you wish to make it, you must also accept that you can only be consistent by arguing for the abolishment of organised education.
    • 5 followers
    Offline

    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by *Corinna*)
    How can you possibly know though what your child will need 15 years down the line? I consider language learning the most important help a parent can provide to their children. The possibilities a new language opens are endless both intellectually and practically (so many more job opportunities, ability to study and live in different countries etc)
    Ideally I want my child to speak 2-3 languages by 18 (excluding English and Greek/Hindi which hopefully it will learn from me and my bf.)
    You don't now what a child will need 15 years down the line, that's the point. That's why you only teach them the things they NEED to know, then once it becomes more clear what they want to do in life they can start looking at learning foreign languages, if they want.

    It doesn't make sense to say "we don't know what a child will need 15 years down the line, so lets just guess languages!"

Reply

Submit reply

Register

Thanks for posting! You just need to create an account in order to submit the post
  1. this can't be left blank
    that username has been taken, please choose another Forgotten your password?

    this is what you'll be called on TSR

  2. this can't be left blank
    this email is already registered. Forgotten your password?

    never shared and never spammed

  3. this can't be left blank

    6 characters or longer with both numbers and letters is safer

  4. this can't be left empty
    your full birthday is required
  1. By completing the slider below you agree to The Student Room's terms & conditions and site rules

  2. Slide the button to the right to create your account

    Slide to join now Processing…

    You don't slide that way? No problem.

Updated: April 11, 2012
Article updates
Useful resources
Reputation gems:
You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.