What does everyone think about the fact that Spanish language instruction is slowly taking over as sometimes the only language offered for students to learn in high schools and middle schools? How do you feel about French language instruction diminishing?
I think it's too bad that many parents are short-sighted about languages. Learning Spanish has clear benefits for people who live in the US, but it's not an either/or proposition. Even for students who do manage to achieve fluency in both English and Spanish, they still can't communicate with something like 85% of the people in the world. Students should be encouraged to take multiple languages.
One of the classes I teach, by the way, is French. :-)
Those statistics are only important if you plan to stay in the US your whole life. If you go to Europe, West Africa, or even eastern Canada French is infinitely more widespread than Spanish. Here are some other reasons why French is a good choice. In summary, France (and the francophone world) has a lot of international trade, French is a main language for international diplomacy and humanitarian work, and France has an incredible high-tech sector. And your point about Chinese, while true, conceals the fact that French ranks just after Chinese as a home language in the US (coming in 4th overall after English and Spanish in the top two places).
This whole argument hinges on the idea that taking a foreign language, even for several years, will give you the ability to function in that language. And that doesn't seem to be the case for most students anyway.
Also, it seems few non-native Spanish speakers get jobs in the US that require Spanish fluency, since there are plenty of fully bilingual Hispanics. I can't find any hard statistics to back up that claim, so I admit it's more of an observation than a hard fact.
But like I said before, why learn just one other language?
Should the British Government penalise those not speaking English in the uk?
while the USA legislated only 4 years ago to make English an official language
My seemingly distant school days I studied french and German and a little Latin ( a very old lady as I can remember !!)
sure we shouldnt limit children to a single language hey , I thought the EU s thinking was to encourage and assist learning of two other languages
we must learn other cultures/and thought process c 'est bien?
Pure economics. Supply and demand. People take what they want to take, not what they "should" take (as determined by others). People want to take Spanish, therefore more spanish is offered. Why do they want to take it? Because it is more immediately relevant (note the high volume of TV broadcasts, newspapers, periodicals in Spanish, not to mention the millions of hispanics who live in the US). No brainer.
Well, I certainly can't speak for all schools but I get a lot of kids every year who tell me they wanted to take French but their parents made them take Spanish, and I have parents who tell me that as well. So I've been gearing my recruitment messages more to parents in the last few years with decent results.
I don'k know exactly the situation of french language instruction in your country. According to me, because i'm french, and first of all, EUROPEAN ;-) , the problem is not WHICH language is better to learn, but WHY it's important to learn foreign language...: not only to communicate with a bigger part of the world, but also to have an access to different cultures. Larning languages is not a matter of communication, but a matter of culture.
For exampel,in my own european educational social network, we (i.e. tachers and pupils from different euopean countries) encourage to use all the languages, even lithuanian, polish, romanian as well as french and english. I'm disapointed by the exclusive use of english language in Classroom 2.0 network, and by the fact that american teachers don't care about others educative systems in Europe, Africa, Middle East. In Europe, we have no problem to speak in arabic as in french or german: Our diversity is our RICHESSE ;-)
..Ministers are being urged to do more to encourage children to speak two languages from a young age.
Edinburgh University and the Royal Society of Arts say research points to bilingual children being better at learning a wide range of subjects.
A new study by the university suggests children speaking two languages make no more grammatical mistakes in English than those speaking one language.
The Scottish Executive is currently consulting on its languages policy.
Professor Antonella Sorace tested a number of school-age bilingual children.
Her study echoes others which have indicated that children learning two languages may begin to talk later, but not significantly so.
By bringing then up bilingually, parents can give children much more than two languages
Professor Antonella Sorace
Professor Sorace said bilingualism made children generally better at learning throughout their lives. She believes parents are often put off bringing their children up bilingually because they feel it may hinder their intellectual development.
"Many parents don't know how good bilingualism can be and they think that bilingualism can cause confusion and intellectual delay in the child," Professor Sorace said.
"They deliberately refuse to speak one of the languages they could be speaking.
"By bringing them up bilingually they can give them much more than two languages."
She said a recent executive consultation document on the subject made no reference to the all-round intellectual benefits of bilingualism.
Professor Sorace said she hoped her findings would encourage parents to send their children to Gaelic schools.
In the USA, we are very provincial. For example, when we discuss school reform, we rarely consider examining effective school systems abroad. Rather, we focus on homegrown ideas like charter schools, which have yet to be proven effective. This is tragic.
Regarding the French language -- I believe there are 400,000,000 francophones in the world, making French a pretty important language in my book. These days, it's easier than ever to work on/maintain one's foreign languages, since there are so many sites like livemocha, and polyglot and organizations like Alliance Francaise and the Goethe Insititute have fantastic resources for language learning. So, no matter where you live, there's no excuse to not keep up with your languages!
How about looking at this from the perspective of how students will maintain their language skills after they leave school? Most people don't make a conscious effort to maintain a language, and they soon lose confidence in their ability to speak it. Based on this, I would favor whichever language they are most likely to have the opportunity to use in their daily lives.
Here in Cambridge (UK) that would currently be Polish. Across most of the southern USA I'd guess it would be Spanish.