Multilingual Education in the United States

May 4, 2018
Multilingual education is key for student success and the future of the United States. However, the country is falling behind. The United States ranks lower than most nations in bilingual population. This is a huge disadvantage as multilingualism is an important skill in modern day society.

The lack of foreign language instruction leaves not only native English speakers at a disadvantage, but English learners as well. Without accessible programing, English learners struggle to find advanced coursework or sometimes even graduate. Thankfully, dual language programs are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Over the past few years there has been an increased focus on native language development, allowing non native English speakers to explore and understand their language and culture, encouraging their success and the success of their cultures.

Although the United States does not have an official language, it obviously favors English. This is where the issue arises. English has become a global language. Around the world, speaking English has become a huge determinant of success. For this reason, many non native English speaking families choose to teach their children English. Raising a multilingual child is widely supported choice, however when the scale tips too far- children start to forget their native language and generations out don’t know it at all. Creating the global problem we face today of dying languages.

Schools in the United States also favor English. Yes, there are dual immersion programs available. However, families focusing on bilingual education are often more affluent, coming form higher socioeconomic classes. Many families for whom the programs are intended for are unable to attend dual immersion programs because of geographical restrictions, environment, access to healthcare, over enrollment or financial reasons.

The success of dual immersion programs has relied greatly on the mix of native english speakers and english learners inside the classroom. Ideally equal parts English learners and and English speakers for ultimate in classroom success. This allows english learners the ability to maintain and develop their native language while learning a new language. English speakers also benefit from having native language speakers in the classroom. It allows students to build confidence in their language skills and experience a new language first hand. Maintaining a fair ratio of English learners and native English speakers is key.  By doing so we are creating an education program that allows English learners to continue growing the deeper cognitive skills in their native language, while learning english, thus developing a strong academic foundation that defies language barriers.

Having programs that allot for language exploration allow students to see their language as a right and resource, rather than a handicap.  Encouraging non native English speakers to explore and develop their own native language will help keep cultures alive across the globe and allow global communication to grow. Foreign language education is import for the future of the United States.