Why foreign language must be taught at a young age


Jackson Schou

Posters like these cover the walls of foreign language classrooms at PV.

Jackson Schou, Copy Editor

Learning foreign language at a young age comes with many benefits—benefits which most students at Pleasant Valley don’t have the opportunity to gain from. 

The way that PV offers foreign language isn’t all bad. Students have the opportunity to take Spanish, French, Japanese and American Sign Language. Most of those languages can be started in eighth grade, so students can complete up to five years of a language before they graduate. 

Fortunately, students will have taken their foreign language of choice before the age of 25–the age when the brain is fully developed and not as capable of learning complicated material. Because of this, students can have a solid understanding of another language. However, that foundation would be far stronger if students were exposed to and began to learn a second language earlier in their lives. 

Ideally, students would start to learn a second language in early elementary school. This is when the brain is most capable of distinguishing different sounds and articulations, and anytime after that it becomes more difficult to do so. 

Senior Kishore Vijaykumar and his family speak Tamil at home. Because Vijaykumar has been surrounded by the language since birth, he considers himself fluent. “Being able to speak a second language is very important to me,” he said. “It allows me to communicate with tons of people that I wouldn’t be able to speak to if I only spoke English. It’s also a very prominent part of my family’s culture.” 

Being fluent in more than one language is beneficial for many reasons; it can open up more job opportunities, it is correlated with higher level thinking and it allows one to communicate with more people around the world. 

After taking Spanish for a few years, Senior Olivia Marchiori wishes she were better able to speak and understand the language. “I would love to travel to Spanish speaking countries and understand everything, but my Spanish isn’t good enough. It would also give me a leg-up on people who aren’t bilingual,” Marchiori said.

Because most students don’t have the chance to start a second language at a young age, they won’t have the possibility of becoming truly fluent in another language. Pleasant Valley needs to incorporate foreign language curriculum beginning in early elementary school. By doing so students can experience the benefits of being truly fluent.