Spanish Should be a Required Class in the USA, Beginning in Elementary School.

This is the second post I’m writing about language, and it’s because while I’m leaning Spanish, I’m reflecting on the way foreign languages are taught in the United States and that most Americans don’t speak a second language. Most of the rest of the world speaks at last one other language other than their native tongue, and they don’t seem to choose their second language by interest, but rather by need and what is practical. In the United States, when students learn a second language they usually choose what the language is that they will learn, disregarding whether it makes sense due to lack of demand.

In the United States, learning a foreign language is a required class for, if I remember correctly, at least two of the four years of high school education. The student may choose to learn Spanish, French, German, and sometimes I’ve seen Italian offered. When I was in high school, I chose to learn French, and my sister chose to learn French despite my advice to my mother that she should learn Spanish due to the demand and job opportunities. How much French do I remember? None. I’ve only encountered two or three French speakers in all my life in the United States, and while I’m sure there were more around me with the ability to speak it, they spoke English instead. I feel this is impractical and that our education system needs to be reorganized.

According to an article I found on CNN.com, it’s estimated that 18.1% of the population in the United States, or about 58.9 million people are Hispanic, and of that amount, about 41 million speak Spanish in their home. Some parts of the United States have a high Latin/Hispanic population, such as California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, New York, etc., which increases the demand in those areas for bilingualism. I live in Palm Beach county in South Florida, but I’ve also lived in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in the past, and I still visit those areas frequently. In Miami, it can be very difficult to find a job if you don’t speak Spanish or aren’t bilingual. It’s very common to hear Spanish not only in the home there, but it’s dominant in public as well, and it isn’t uncommon to hear a waitress or cashier, etc. speak to you in Spanish first. With all of the political problems, past and present, going on in Spanish-speaking countries (e.g., Cuba, Venezuela, etc.), South Florida is one of the primary places these immigrants move in order to start a new life.

I feel that Spanish should be a required class that starts at the elementary level and goes all the way up through middle school of every child’s education. At this point each person would be fluent in both English and Spanish, and at the high school level each child could then learn another language, such as German, Italian, French, etc., however, these languages exist in such insignificant numbers in the United States that I feel Spanish should be required before learning these other languages. Many Americans may not like that idea and don’t like pressing 1 for English and 2 for Spanish on the phone, at the ATM, etc., however, I feel that’s outdated thinking and an example of how culturally encapsulated we are as a collective. The majority of the rest of the world speaks at least two languages, so why not Americans? Why are we rejecting the idea of becoming more educated, and why are we satisfied with the rest of the world leaving us in the dust? This country prides itself on being the best, or many feel it is, however, we need to also grow and adapt with the world rather than stubbornly sticking to old ways that will hurt us in the long-run.

Speaking a second language isn’t only good for increasing IQ, but it helps to prevent or delay dementia (it’s often recommended for people to learn another language for this reason), we’re able to communicate with more people, we learn about and accept more cultures causing us to become more accepting of them, we become more global, it’s an education, it opens up more job opportunities around the country and world (e.g., interpreters, journalists, etc.), we make more friends and become more of a part of the community, etc. We can also become more creative and reach more audiences as singers, authors, poets, and whatnot. I encounter people on a daily basis that speak at least two languages, and many of my friends speak at least two languages as well (so does my husband and his family!), and the one thing I can say I’ve never heard from even one of those people is that they regretted learning a second language. In fact, they highly encouraged it and discussed the many benefits it has and the doors that it opened for them, especially when the two languages were English and Spanish!

Peony Evans

Further reading: https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/us-students-lag-far-behind-rest-of-the-world-in-learning-a-second-language-heres-why-that-matters?fbclid=IwAR0dY4YJiPf4SRjZ9APNLsxxInuxobgmJHE6HM_VZ0gmli1ZvSUReQa8u9o

Sources: https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/20/us/hispanics-in-the-u-s-/index.html

Do We Underestimate the Ability of Adults to Learn New Languages?

How many times have you heard that it’s best to teach other languages to children while they’re young because they learn so much better and faster than adults? How many times have you heard that when a person learns another language as a child, they won’t have an accent in it? I can’t count how many times I’ve been told that children learn other languages better and faster than adults, and I feel to some degree that there’s a message being sent that adults aren’t good enough, can’t do as well as children, and almost like we’re a lost cause. However, I personally don’t feel that adults are inferior and that we don’t necessarily have to learn less quickly. I feel that at least in part, expectations and time availability, listening skills and embarrassment play a role in adults learning languages slower and with worse quality and fluency. When someone is told they can’t do something frequent enough, the person begins to believe it, they may cease trying with as much vigor as they would had the messages been positive. For example, when a child is taught they aren’t good enough and that they’re dumb, the child may eventually grow to believe it, and a child that is actually intelligent may get lower scores on tests and assignments. I feel a lot of it has to do with positive messages, self-esteem, feeling valued, belief in one’s abilities, and the amount of encouragement.

Second, children seem to have a lot more spare time than adults do. They have the time to focus on learning what they want, but on the other hand, adults have to adhere to a faster paced life that has many responsibilities and demands that children don’t have. Adults must work (many work a lot of overtime nowadays), take care of their children, keep up the home, cook, run errands, pay bills, etc. We’re left with less time to be able to sit and focus for consistent long periods of time to learn many things we’d like to learn.

I’m starting to learn Spanish, and I’ve attempted to many times throughout the years, and these are some of the reasons I feel interfered with my ability to learn the language. Most of my time was dedicated to studying for my degrees to the point I felt I didn’t have time to consistently take large chunks of time daily to focus on learning a language. I’d make attempts that would last possibly two weeks, but then as the semesters got busy in each of my classes with reading the textbooks, studying for tests and quizzes, writing papers, doing projects, doing research, etc., I just didn’t have the time to commit to it. I even remember someone telling me to try to translate my textbooks into Spanish, but that would have taken way too much time to do and I would have ended up studying Spanish more than the material I was supposed to be learning to be graded on – that’s no short and simple feat!

I used to feel that the best way to learn a language was by studying using books (we each have a preferred learning style we’re naturally better at), but it didn’t really help. The way textbooks are written seem far away from how people really speak in their languages (speaking only present tense for the first year, subject matter or lack thereof, etc.). Most of the time, Spanish speakers told me the best and quickest way to learn a language was by immersion. I was told to have people speak only Spanish to me, or to watch Spanish soap operas with subtitles. I tried watching soap operas and they didn’t work. They spoke too fast and it was too hard to read fast enough to keep up with the subtitles and remember what flashed across the screen to make it into long-term memory, which is the key. I was also around a lot of people that spoke mostly Spanish, and I learned nothing because it lacked context, and they spoke so fast.

I don’t know how many times I gave up the idea of learning Spanish until I finally started reflecting on the differences of how children versus adults learn language. Many say the best way to learn a language is through immersion, just having someone only speak to me in Spanish, and that’s the way that children learn language. However, I feel that most adults don’t realize that while, yes, immersion is the best way to learn, the way children are spoken to versus adults are very different as well as the expectations.

The first year-and-a-half of a child’s life are spent mostly listening and babbling, but not really speaking, yet it’s important not to dismiss that time because while they may not be speaking, they’re still learning. Many times children will follow very simple directions long before they start speaking, indicating that they understand long before they speak. The way adults speak to children is very different from the way they speak to other adults. Adults may speak only a word or to, maybe a few, to children and then gradually progress to simple sentences as vocabulary and understanding progress. When adults speak to other adults in the immersion technique, they don’t start simply and increase in complexity gradually. Instead, the person trying to learn the language is thrown right into fluent, adult conversational level of the language. Meaning, we start slow and simple with children and slowly increase the level we speak with them over time, however, with adults, we just jump right in to the advanced or expert level and expect the one learning the language to somehow become fluent in two months to a year’s time. It’s unrealistic, at least when learning the second language.

Another difference that I noticed between children and adults learning or being taught a second language (and children learning even their first language) is context. When adults teach children language, it isn’t only simple and gradual at first, but there’s a plethora of context! It’s context that provides understanding, not so much how frequent we hear a language. When children are learning language, parents and other adults point to objects, say the word, and there’s plenty of repetition. They speak slower and simpler. Adults read simple books to children, buy children toys that teaches them vocabulary through interaction that has plenty of context. There are many children’s books that focus solely on vocabulary building as well where there’s no storyline, only a picture with the word of what the object is. For example, there may be a picture of a lion with the word “lion” under it. The expectations and way we immerse children versus adults into learning language is very different.

Yes, immersion is the best way to learn and it’s ultimately the way children learn, but what’s key is context, simplicity, repetition, starting slow and gradually increasing in complexity and speed. No one speaks to a baby or a three-year-old the way they speak to a 50-year-old adult. They also tend to teach children words that are more concrete rather than abstract first. It’s easier to point to a picture of a lion and say “lion” than it is to show them what “I love you” is, or “how are you?” As adults, we still have some abstract words and phrases that we say to young children, but we don’t expect them to understand it so quickly. When adults speak to other adults in the immersion technique, it doesn’t seem that it starts with the concrete words and concepts and gradually moves to or includes the more abstract. For example, how do you teach the abstract concept of “repetition” to adults in another language versus teaching them “door”? It may actually be a little easier to teach adults about abstract concepts and words, however, because we can simply give them the translation in their language, making it more concrete, and because their ability to understand and think on an abstract level is well developed. We can therefore say, ” ‘Te amo’ means ‘I love you’ ” to them. Perhaps starting with more of the concrete, or high context words and phrases are more important to start with pertaining to adults.

I feel that if we truly used the exact same immersion method of language development for children with adults, and making sure the words are immediately relevant to their lives that they’ll use frequently from the start, they will learn the second language much faster. Watching soap operas with subtitles isn’t helpful because it’s more of a lesson in speed reading without the focus on actually learning and retaining what they’ve read and allowing it to be transferred from short-term memory into long-term memory. I feel that adults need to start learning other languages the same way a child learns, but as I said, making sure it’s high-context, simple, relevant, and something they’ll use frequently right away. With that method, I do agree that immersion is the best way to learn a new language, and it may not be so much that adults can’t really learn other languages well because of their age.

Finally, there’s the issue of pronunciation. I agree that adults may not learn a language without having some type of accent, but is that really important? Accents add flavor and tend to be beautiful rather than something to be ashamed of. Who doesn’t like an Irish accent, an English accent, a Spanish accent, an Italian accent, a Jamaican accent, or even one of many accents from Africa (Cameroon, Nigerian, etc.)? For those who may speak with a really, really thick accent to the point it sounds like they aren’t even trying, it may be just that. They may not be trying to speak the true sound of the language, but speaking just enough to be understood, however, they aren’t always easy to understand if they don’t put some effort in. The lack of effort could be rooted in embarrassment or feeling they’d sound worse.

When someone whose primary language is English, there are many that don’t sound good when they speak Spanish. It sounds like some of those people aren’t even trying because they’re pronouncing the letters, words, etc. with the way the letters sound in English, not Spanish. They either fail to truly listen, they don’t seem to put in the effort, or perhaps hearing isn’t their strong point (in this case, it’s more understandable). When learning a language, it’s important not to speak it using the sounds of your primary language, but rather, learn and use the sounds of the other language as closely and as much as possible to minimize the accent (there will always be some type of accent, but there’s a difference between effort and little effort). I’ve been told by those who have heard me speak any Spanish that my pronunciation is very good. I still have some type of accent, but it’s very good compared to many whose first language is English. I feel the reason for that is because I don’t try to speak or pronounce Spanish by forcing the use of the sounds of letters, etc. in English.

With these concepts in mind, I feel language learning in adults would rapidly speed up the process. We must view ourselves as children learning, and those helping us learn their language must start out with the simplicity they speak to a child with when teaching them their language.

Peony Evans

Purpose of Peony’s Points

Hello, and welcome to my blog, or series of blogs (all of my other blogs are linked in the menu on top of the main page, with one or two more to come in the future)! Peony Evans isn’t my real name, it’s a pen name that I like. I’m going to keep this brief and describe what this blog is about.

I’m going to write my opinion on any topic that I read about in the news, studied, experienced, and the like. It doesn’t mean that everything I post is absolutely fact backed my science, it’s only my opinion, though, I will include links to studies and credible information when I write about things such as science and factual related posts. These topics can literally range from cooking, to religion, the environment, society, culture, crime, laws, movies, music, books, health, you name it!

Please feel free to leave comments and have discussions about each topic! All that I ask is for anyone who comments to be respectful to each other – no insults, cursing, racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, etc. I hope that you enjoy my blog and choose to follow it! As I mentioned above, I have a collection of other blogs that you can find listed in the menu bar at the top of the main page. The best I can describe this blog is that this page will be for all of my opinions of miscellaneous topics and be the main page, but I’ll add posts to the more specific blogs as necessary. Overall, the whole thing is intended to be active and I will post on here which blogs have been updated.

So far, the blog topics include:

. . .And Still Blessed This is my Christianity blog that includes Bible verses, my interpretations, sermon notes and reflections, and anything pertaining to religion. My belief and approach is one of warmth, tolerance, kindness, love, acceptance, authoritative (not to be mistaken for authoritarian), and balanced. What this blog is NOT, is an approach that is authoritarian, intolerant, hateful, discriminating, no insulting other religions or denominations, no homophobia or racism (we’re all loved by God), no sexism, exclusion, etc.

Parenting Adventures – This blog is about my “adventures” as a mother, the fun I have with my son and my husband, my reactions and observations of my son’s development over time, activities for children, parenting tips, my journey of raising my son, and anything that can fit into the category of being a parent! My son is my dream come true, taking eight years and five miscarriages to have him, so I consider him to be the best thing that ever happened to me!

Meniere’s Disease – This blog is about my life with Meniere’s Disease, which I’ll describe what it is in the first post. The short summary is it’s a vestibular disorder that is progressive that includes violent vertigo, tinnitus, ear fullness/pressure, fatigue, fluctuating hearing loss that becomes permanent over time, balance problems, etc. It sounds really horrible, and it really is for many, however, it’s a disease that affects everyone differently. This is just my experience and story, and I also write about parenting with Meniere’s Disease – it’s actually possible!

Two possible blogs I’ll add in the future are –

Mental health & psychology – I have two degrees in mental health psychology, and I’m in the process of getting ready to start my internship with the intention to become a Christian counselor. I’ve only worked for a year in a hospital previously for practicum, however, I don’t plan to work in a hospital again. I won’t write about any patients, etc. as that would be a violation of HIPAA.

Nutrition – I have a tremendous interest in nutrition, how it affects hormones, the body, mental health, fertility, illness and healing.

Welcome, I hope that you enjoy this blog as well as my other blogs, and please feel free to follow my blog, contact me, or leave any comments and discuss the topics!

Peony Evans