“It is necessary to think about what we are going to do for our children at a young age because the door closes… There is so much more to do to help U.S. kids to become multi-cultural and multi-lingual. It’s essential in order to complete in today’s international environment.”
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My guest for Episode 17, Ines Lormand, brings tremendous passion to the search for a way to awaken the U.S. education system more fully to the power of bi- and multi-lingualism. You will hear why in her biographical story in the podcast, and through the resources she has provided with her biography.
Where does her urgency comes from? Why, here in the United States, should we listen to her when “we can all speak English”? And isn’t adding on a language confusing to young children, just learning their own?
We language educators and professionals are tempted to respond: Where do we even start, with all of the research that is available to us to discover all the benefits to us as individuals and as a country from bilingualism and multilingualism?
Cited on Ines Lormand’s biography and resources is a concise article on the benefits of the bilingual brain points out that the brains of young children are uniquely suited to learn a second language…[and] [t]hey can learn a second language as easy as they learned to walk and learn their primary language. Bilingual children have a superior ability to focus on one thing and change their response, easily indicating ‘cognitive flexibility.’
Extensive research finds cognitive benefits throughout the lives of those who know more than one language, with marked improvements in academic achievement for all students (and especially strong benefits for those students from typically underserved populations), as well as strengthened cognitive health that helps delay the onset of dementia. Clear and categorized research and data for our own study and for use in advocacy may be found on the website of the national organization for world language education, ACTFL.
In February 2017, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences published the report of the Commission on Language Learning, “America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century.” The Executive summary includes this first key finding: The ability to understand, speak, read, and write in world languages, in addition to English, is critical to success in business, research, and international relations in the twenty-first century.
Indeed, with regard to governmental relations, even more urgent reports have been prepared, including the National Security Language Initiative in 2006 under then-President George Bush. The plan announcement included this strong statement: Deficits in foreign language learning and teaching negatively affect our national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence communities and cultural understanding. It prevents us from effectively communicating in foreign media environments, hurts counter-terrorism efforts, and hamstrings our capacity to work with people and governments in post-conflict zones and to promote mutual understanding. Our business competitiveness is hampered in making effective contacts and adding new markets overseas.
To strengthened brains, improved academic performance, enhanced employment and salary options, and national security and international standing, those of us in the multilingual community would add improved self-concept, joy in making friends, sense of personal agency and impact, and fascination with the words and cultures of others — an enriched life.
So when Ines Lormand speaks with passion and urgency about the need for and power of language education for the young, she’s been living out all this research. Join your voice to hers. Share your stories. Reach out and help our young ones learn.
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