Foreign Language: The importance of Practice
1) The method the education system is using to teach Americans a new language has proven itself ineffiecient.
2) The School Board Members of Fresno District
3) Business letter, Academic
10/30/14(word count: 932)
October 30, 2014
1111 Van Ness Ave.
Fresno, CA 93721
Dear Fresno School Board Members,
My name is Cesar Jimenez, I am a former student at Fresno high school. I wanted to address an issue within the foreign language department, which concerns me knowing that students are not properly given the opportunity to learn a new language and use it in the real world. As you all may know every student in California must take two years of foreign language in order to graduate and attend a four-year university. This was put in place so students can understand a different language and a different culture, but even after students take a foreign language class for fours years they still don’t fully develop the language. My years at Fresno High were spent taking Spanish, my primary language, because that was the only language offered. I can’t complain because I was able to speak and write it a lot better then before I enrolled in the class. Although I cannot speak for my peer you didn’t speak Spanish, and did not learn much Spanish after two or three years of being enrolled in the class.
Foreign language taught in high school is hard to learn because of the lack of time spent practicing and developing the language. According to a research study done by Forbes magazine, they found that only 7% of people use the secondary language they learned in high school. Having the ability to know two or three languages will open so many opportunities for an individual in his or her near future. The compensation for knowing a second language is very rewarding but only 17% of American students are bilingual (Forbes) You maybe wondering why the alarming statics, and this simply because after a student is enrolled in a foreign language class for 2 plus years, many will leave and forget the language. Students are not learning the language because its not taught effectively and results in them forgetting it within a summer.
As an alumnus of Fresno High I witnessed students take Spanish for four consecutive years and yet were not able to have a full conversation with me without having to stop and think about how to pronounce a simple word. Many students will stay in Spanish 1, and are never prepared for the upper level Spanish classes. There are many factors as to why this problem exists; it can possibly be the teacher’s lack of desire to teach the students or the lack of motivation from the students to actually learn.
The ineffectiveness of the language departments in high schools lay on the lack of practice students receive. Learning a new languaae, unlike learning other subjects i.e. Math and Science, can be particularly difficult when students do not receive constant practice. The curriculum in high schools often heavily concentrate on what they call “core subjects” and foreign language is left as a secondary subject. Making foreign language a core subject and making it have equal weight as other subjects can increase the effectiveness on students. By making it a core subject, testing students with annual assessments like its done with other subjects would be a good way to track the progress of students learning and encourage them to find merit in learning a new language. Increasing the required years foreign language has to be taken before graduation will also boost the amount of practice students receive. Also by trying to extend the time students are in class can help maximize the learning students receive because it allows them to use the extended time to practice the language. My best friend attended a high school in the Middle East where they have class blocks of two hours. He was enforced to spend at least two hours a day learning a secondary language, and as a result he has been able to come and study in America because of his great English skills that he was learned in Qatar. Encouraging support groups in foreign languages outside of the classroom can also be an effective way to maintain that constant practices student’s need. These support groups can include tutoring, language advising, and clubs that focus on practicing and learning the language.
Being proficient in a foreign language can open up opportunities in many different ways. Learning a foreign language not only exposes a student to the new language but to a new culture and has the ability to open up the students mind and allows them to see different perspectives. High Schools should be fully committed in trying to help students achieve goals outside the standard school system.
As school board members you have the power as elected officials to change the way we teach students and the amount of effort we put into language learning. If everyone works together from the students to the teachers and administration, then the school board members will have the ability to work towards changing the language department, into one that allows graduates to utilize what they learned in the classroom and apply it to the real world. Changing the way we view foreign language learning is difficult to change, there is so many factors that will affect and work against us. If we are all willing to work together towards our goal, we can improve the many language barriers that occur in our country everyday. Communication is the key to a prosperous education, and we have the power to exceed the way we are educated. Thank you all for taking time out of you busy schedule to read my proposal, hope we can take steps forward to improve our education system.