Yes! Let’s teach American kids to speak Chinese!

Just read this article on GOOD – Do All American Schools Need to Teach Chinese?:

Given the phenomenal growth of the Chinese economy, more American schools are adding Mandarin Chinese to their foreign language offerings. But no Western nation is taking Chinese language education more seriously than Sweden. Time reports that the Swedish education minister Jan Björklund recently announced plans to add Chinese to their nationwide grade school curriculum. According to Björklund, learning Chinese is going to “be much more important, from an economic perspective” than the traditionally offered European languages. Do American schools need to do the same to stay economically competitive? Read more…

On the one hand, this freaks me out a bit because I not too long ago read a dystopian novel that had the Chinese and Swedes running everything in the not-so-far away future! Not that I have a problem with China or Sweden… I just know it’s going to take ME too long to learn either of those languages at my age!

On the other, more rational hand, I say it’s about time kids are provided with options beyond French and Spanish. When I was in elementary school, they had a pilot program to teach Russian language and culture because the USSR still cut a large figure in world politics and economics. For far too long we’ve neglected to make being bi- or tri-lingual a priority. Language classes in American schools are just trifling requirements we have to endure. Few students are encouraged or supported in expanding their second/third language proficiency through further (non-
I used to aspire to be a French interpreter or an expert on the ancient cities of the Mediterranean. I took years of French and some Italian, but I never did get around to Latin because by that time I had moved on to other career paths. I also took a bit of Japanese here and in Tokyo.However, with all of that “training” behind me I’m still not fluent in any language besides English. I still dream of taking a year away from the USA to live in France, hoping that I can recall those lessons from 6th grade – Jr year of college and carry on conversations with minimal hesitation. I’m ashamed that I spent time in Japan and have the most basic understanding of the language, nevermind that B+ in Japanese Language back in 1999.required) study or travel.

I, the perpetual student, have resolved that once I finish this Master’s program next spring, I’ll get back into one of the languages I used to study. I know it will be hard but I enjoy it. It doesn’t hurt that I seem to have a knack for picking up the vocabulary and grammar rules of other tongues. Only question now is to resume French – a language I’ve always loved, France a land I’ve been dying to visit, and the language in which I have the most background; or get back into Japanese – a language I miss after hearing it swirl around me in the streets of Tokyo, a land I wish to experience all over again but in stereo – understanding rather than just observing. I fear that at my age it will prove nearly impossible to do both.