Growing up in a bilingual household, it was easy for me to understand the importance of learning a second language. Without it, I couldn’t speak to my grandparents, family friends, relatives from another country. In the past decade, the need to learn a second language has risen steadily. America is a melting pot, with citizens originally from different countries all over the world. In a walk through New York City, a person can hear up to ten different languages simply by walking down Broadway.
One of the more common languages we hear nowadays is Spanish. There are many Hispanic communities in large cities where the only language heard is Spanish. If you find yourself in these parts, not knowing a single word, you’ll be hard pressed to get your point across. Thus, it has fallen upon people to educate themselves or to start younger and begin educating the next generation. Elementary schools hire Spanish teachers to teach unwilling students in the hopes that these students will appreciate the knowledge being passed onto them. The only problem with this is that, like students my age, we know it will eventually become useful, but not now. Children only want to see and learn things that will benefit them now. Learning Spanish now will help them in five year when they need directions and the only people around speak Spanish. Learning Spanish now won’t help them communicate with their friends.
It isn’t just Spanish that is causing a problem. Simply learning a second language is a great cause for groans of “Why?” from children and young adults. In my own personal experience (I teach Chinese to children), they will learn it if they are forced to, but that doesn’t mean they will use it. Being forced to learn a second language doesn’t guarantee they will pay attention either. One of the most common things I hear is, “But everyone knows English. Why should I have to learn another language?”
For now, children will keep on ignoring the need to learn a second language and by the time they are young adults and realize the whole world is multicultural and all they know is English, they will wish they had paid attention in elementary school.