It’s a loser strategy for American kids. English has a huge vocabulary and wasting time learning Spanish (a popular second language) means less time to practice their English, a language capable of great precision and expression because of its complexity and multiple linguistic roots.
Bilingual enthusiasts have claimed for years that learning two languages makes the kiddies smarter — or at least that they score better on standardized tests. There is never a comparison with the advantage of say, studying chess strategy or computer coding. Certainly it’s always better to keep the mind active with stimulating pursuits rather than use it merely as a passive entertainment receptacle. But bilingualists never analyze whether learning a spare language really does something special to the brain that other challenging studies do not.
So you have to conclude that bilingualism remains a political project to increase diversity and decrease the social unifier of having one language in America.
ARTHEL NEVILLE: Several states across the country are stepping up their schools dual language programs, this after a recent study found that students enrolled in these programs perform better than their peers on state testing. Bryan Llenas is here and he’s live in our newsroom to tell us more about these programs.
BRYAN LLENAS: What was once hundreds of kids just a year ago is now thousands learning a language other than their own. That’s what educators say about a trend in schools across the nation giving the next generation a competitive edge on the global stage before they’re even out of the sandbox. Dual language learning programs teach elementary through high school kids all the standard subjects but do so immersed in a second language. The goal: having students fluent in two languages before they don a cap and gown.
PARENT STACEY HALLMARK: In the future, in the job market, like being, that’s it’s a huge benefit, right? Opens up more doors, and I think it’s a good opportunity for them to just be exposed to other cultures and understand that there’s more than what they see in their neighborhood.
LLENAS: New York City now has 182 dual language programs in its schools, 39 new or expanded this school year, 28,000 grade schoolers in Utah and 10% of all K -12 students in Portland Oregon are enrolled. Students at Los Puentes Elementary in Manhattan change the language they speak every other day. Mondays they’ll be learning their ABCs in English, Tuesdays in Spanish, the lessons in the subjects though stay the same. Now according to a federally funded randomized study by the think tank the Rand Corporation which found students who enter immersion programs in kindergarten exceeded reading by the fifth grade and do at least as well as their peers in math and science.