you call somebody who speaks one language? American (i.e., USA).” If we wish to be respected in the world’s eyes, then this must change.
While on summer break I had the opportunity to travel the Southern Caribbean. One of the most fascinating stops was to Curacao, part of the ABC Islands.
Besides the beautiful sights, snorkeling, flamingos, etcetera, our guide was very interesting. She remarked on the dismal performance of the current education system in her country; specifically, she commented on how the students today were only required to learn four languages (i.e., Papiamentu, Dutch, English & Spanish), while in her time, she had to also master French, Portuguese, and Latin. It was startling that in every country we visited, the people spoke multiple languages. One could argue that I was in tourist towns and that is the reason, but I also knew people where I was traveling and did not spend my entire time in the tourist sections and I actually interacted with
Yes, it can be argued that most of the USA’s population in recent years have completed a study of a second language, but how many of us actually can communicate in a second language? I studied Spanish as a young child and
still retain a smidgen of words and phrases, but I could not carry on a conversation. I studied American Sign Language in college and the same holds true for my competency in that language as well. In today’s increasingly technological environment, the focus of the American education system has been on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and very recently there has been a push for STEAM, which adds “the arts.” We need to focus on
With carefully crafted language skills most people can be successful and live productive lives, even if you are not mathematically inclined. If you have great
mathematical skills and no language skills, then your options are limited. As a mathematician, even if you could solve a Millennial Problem, if you can’t communicate it, it doesn’t do anybody any good. Whereas, if you have great language skills, the computer in your pocket (i.e., smartphone) will answer 99.9% of math problems you may encounter as a non-mathematician, if you have the language skills to ask it…
As a nation we must realize that to compete in today’s global economy we need people who have the intellect to understand there is a problem, the critical thinking skills to solve the problem, and language skills to explain the remedy to many different peoples so that it may be implemented. With so much focus on STEM, I’m afraid that we may neglect the most important part of the problem solving method: languages!