Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Teaching Language in Schools

This is a cool thing I stumbled on.

From time to time, I look at the news in my home area of upstate New York. There is not usually a headline to do with the Lake Luzerne area, but this Schenectady topic caught my eye.

It seems that the school district is starting to teach Arabic language classes. All I can say is WOW! How forward thinking. If things go well and peaceful relations abound, there will be tremendous business opportunities in the Middle East. If things continue to escalate, there will most likely be job opportunities as we continue to eavesdrop on everything. But let's not go there, my political, philosophical, rose-colored, hopeful, petticoat is showing. Let's stay focused on the pleasant side.

It seems that the schools are already experimenting with Chinese class. Again, let's focus on the positive. I tend to believe that business opportunities, exposure to other lifestyles, and openness is what will heal us all. But perhaps again, those rose-colored glasses are welded to my head a little too tightly.

This is part of what we like about where we are. Because our kids attend a bi-lingual school, they are taught the primary classes (math, language, science) in English, extra classes (art, music, religion, etc.) and playground are in Spanish, they have French class once a week, and Bells gets Mandarin once a week. We also found a private tutor for Chinese classes twice a week outside of school. And her father spoke Tagalog to her when she was a baby (we weren't so good with the other two babies).

As parents, we feel that the ability to communicate is so important and as the world becomes more global and at the same time more small, it is so important to know more languages. I am old and have a goal to speak Spanish as well as a third-grade native speaker. This is probably a lofty goal for me. But the kids are so flexible to learn these things now. Besides being able to communicate with more people on this earth, there are good reasons for learning languages. Besides having a greater appreciation of other cultures and peoples, it seems that learning languages (or music, for that matter, another language of sorts) help your brain to make connections it would not otherwise make. So speaking and understanding more languages may not make you smarter, but it should make you a more nimble thinker. That has got to be good.

And all I can say is Bravo! Yippee! Congratulations! to the Schenectady school district.


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