Previously posted on www.spartaindependent.co by Hanna Katherine Wickes
Learning a second language takes time, practice, and a whole lot of work. To become fluent takes perseverance. But to speak a second language with the ease of native — well, that takes timing.
We know the benefits of learning a second language: it improves cognitive skills, cultural awareness, and achievement in other disciplines. As a country, having a bilingual-educated nation helps globalize society and keep up with the rest of the world. In fact, one in five American jobs involve international trade. Yet, 90 percent of Americans don’t speak a second language. So why is the United States so far behind?
“We need to introduce language earlier on,” said Doug Crouse, a world language teacher at Sparta Middle School. “Kids’ brains are like sponges. If a second language is introduced earlier in their education, they can speak with the ease of a native by the time they’re adults.”
Research suggests that children should be introduced to a second language by the time they are 10 years old to have the same fluency as a native. But American students aren’t introduced to other languages until they’re about 12 years old. For comparison, European students start to learn a second – and, in some cases, a third — language by the time they are around seven years old.