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Why waste time on a foreign language?

[This is my Local Living section column for April 22, 2010.]

My online discussion group, Admissions 101, recently exchanged verbal blows over foreign language courses in high school. Most of us defended the conventional wisdom. Learning another language improves cognitive development, we said. It enhances academic skills, encourages a sense of the wider world and looks good to colleges.

But the dissenters scored some points. “It is a waste of time and money in our schools,” said a parent who remembered seeing empty language lab stalls. A high school teacher said that “language study is complete nonsense for most people. I’d wager close to 80.percent of kids taking foreign languages in high school do so because they have to.”

There is something to that. Most high schools, including those in the Washington area, do not require foreign language study for graduation. Virginia students need it only if they want to earn an advanced diploma. Maryland requires foreign language classes, but students can substitute technology courses if they want. The reason why a majority of Washington area high school students take foreign languages — Spanish is the most popular choice — is that selective colleges often require them.

How much do they learn? There is little evidence that many students achieve much fluency in high school. Two of my children were serious Spanish students, joined programs that had them live with families in Latin America and today, as adults, use the language in their work. But their parents were the more typical opportunists. We did what we had to do to get a good grade but developed few conversational skills.

My wife avoided the problem of speaking fluency altogether by taking Latin. That helps explain her great skill as a writer and editor of English, but she is happy her high school language is dead.

I also took Latin the first two years of high school, because that was what the most nerdy kids in the school were doing, and they were my peer group. Exhibit A is John Holdren, who grew up to be a Harvard professor of environmental policy and is President Obama’s science czar. When I was a ninth-grader, upperclassman Holdren bought me as his slave for the annual Latin Banquet. But my close observation of his behavior at that event led me to conclude he was more interested in talking to girls dressed in bedsheet togas, as he was, than in developing linguistic skills to discuss Pliny the Elder.

I switched to German for 11th and 12th grades. I learned little and got A’s. It wasn’t until I decided I wanted to be a reporter in China that I got serious about grammar, vocabulary and accent in a foreign tongue. It was very difficult, another reason why high school language students don’t get very far.

How students still look good on their report cards is easy to explain. Because much of the world is striving to learn English, Americans wonder why they should bother to learn other languages. We talk about the importance of foreign language learning to our national security, but we don’t mean it. If if we need speakers of exotic tongues, we import them.

We tell our children that their Spanish or Russian or Arabic or Japanese studies are important. But we give them high grades for little progress. Most colleges don’t require that applicants have more than two years. And from what I can see, based on what actually happens in high schools, learning a foreign language often is a waste of time.

Read Jay's blog every day at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle.

Follow all the Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education web page, http://washingtonpost.com/education.

By Jay Mathews  | April 21, 2010; 10:00 PM ET
Categories:  Local Living  | Tags:  good grades for little work, low standards for instruction, the rest of the world speaks English so why try, why learning foreign language is a waste of time  
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Comments

My daughter took five years of Spanish starting in eighth grade and finishing up with AP Spanish Language (she scored a 4 on the exam). She earned mostly A's in her Spanish classes. Now a sophomore in college, she is not required to take a foreign language, rarely (if ever) uses Spanish, and to my knowledge, has limited comprehension of a conversation between two Spanish-speaking natives. So, yes, I suppose it was a waste of time, but did it help get her into the selective college she now attends? Maybe. This is a topic for much more debate and discussion.

Posted by: leadhall | April 22, 2010 2:08 AM | Report abuse

I recently wrote an op-ed for the LA Times about why I thought the resistance to a Chinese language/culture program being taught in the LA Public schools was ridiculous. It's here.
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-oew-mattimore9-2010apr09,0,2628579.story

If it were up to me, every kid would learn at least a second language beginning in kindergarten. There's also an excellent article (to which most people won't have access) in the current Commentary section of the Chronicle of Higher Education about the cognitive benefits (as well as all the other benefits) of learning a second language.

Posted by: patrickmattimore1 | April 22, 2010 4:55 AM | Report abuse

I recently wrote an op-ed for the LA Times about why I thought the resistance to a Chinese language/culture program being taught in the LA Public schools was ridiculous. It's here.
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-oew-mattimore9-2010apr09,0,2628579.story

If it were up to me, every kid would learn at least a second language beginning in kindergarten. There's also an excellent article (to which most people won't have access) in the current Commentary section of the Chronicle of Higher Education about the cognitive benefits (as well as all the other benefits) of learning a second language.

Posted by: patrickmattimore1 | April 22, 2010 4:57 AM | Report abuse

Following your train of thought, there is no reason to study state history (barring the wars), science (why do I need to know the parts of a flower?), advanced math (really, who uses geometry in daily life?), or English (who really speaks/writes correctly any more?)?

So once we get past, say 5th grade, we're done with learning new topics. Get the basics and be done with school.

Do you just write articles to take up space in the newspaper? Any parent who says learning is a "waste of time and money" really should not be quoted as someone who backs up your issue, rather someone we should point to who backs up the "Americans are idiots" issue.

Posted by: Stormy1 | April 22, 2010 6:01 AM | Report abuse

I took 5 years of French starting in 7th grade. My school French classes didn't make me fluent, but they did get us to the point where we could read literature that we never were exposed to in English lit class, and we could read French teen magazines and newspaper articles to get another point of view. ANd best of all, it allowed me to travel to France as an exchange student, where I went to school and became at least close to fluent. I couldn't have done a lengthy exchange program like that without first having taken some French.
There is another merit to taking a language, even for a short amount of time. I took a year of Japanese in college. Just seeing the very different way that a languge can be structured was very interesting and thought provoking. It helps in terms of understanding your own language better.
My kids take Chinese. They go to a local weekend school. They started when they were 5.

Posted by: bkmny | April 22, 2010 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Wy should americans be so arrogant to believe they should not learn another language? The majority of the rest of the world has learned at least one other language.

I agree with other comments -- we should require a foreign language starting in kindergarten and all throughout school years. If you get a BA in college there is (or use to be) a language requirement with that degree.

Spanish and Chinese are the languages Americans should learn...

Just my two cents worth...

Posted by: knoxelcomcastnet | April 22, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Wy should americans be so arrogant to believe they should not learn another language? The majority of the rest of the world has learned at least one other language.

I agree with other comments -- we should require a foreign language starting in kindergarten and all throughout school years. If you get a BA in college there is (or use to be) a language requirement with that degree.

Spanish and Chinese are the languages Americans should learn...

Just my two cents worth...

Posted by: knoxelcomcastnet | April 22, 2010 6:51 AM | Report abuse

I am puzzled by some of the comments posted here. It is never a waste of time learning a second, third or four language besides English. Living in the DC area we all encounter people from all over the world, so at least in my case, I can practice what I have learned. I only speak three languages and understand four more. To be quite honest, I envy some of my friends who can actually speak four or five languages and make a living out of them. My kids are bilingual and my daughter will take a third one next fall (she is twelve).

We live in a global economy, so I don't see the cons of mastering more than one language. By the way, it is never too late to go back to school....yes, it is more difficult to learn a foreign language as an adult, but not impossible. You'd be surprised how you connect to other cultures and become more "sophisticated" about world issues....

My "three" cents.

Posted by: rm1024 | April 22, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I have a son in graduate school who is fluent in French. He began studying French in ninth grade and spent much free time sharpening his skills. He asked for "big" French dictionaries and read French newspapers online and watched some French movies. He developed internet "pen pals" through an organization and just simply loved French. He took more French in college - placed out of some lower level courses - not via AP, but through some departmental test at the university. The summer after his sophomore year in college, he studied in Paris. It was only the second day or so that some French students were in a lounge conversing and my son joined in the conversation. After a while, it came up that he had just arrived from the US and was happy to finally visit France. They were shocked and several remarked that they thought that he was indeed French and even spoke with a Parisian accent.

He had a wonderful time that summer. He has recently been offered a job that includes international travel to several countries. He is confident in his ability to learn new languages. I remember when he was a senior in high school he told me that for some days during an internship at the hospital, he had left early when his preceptor (?) on one particular rotation was absent, which was frequently the case. I was surpised and asked where he went on those days. He had gone to the local library to teach himself German from the books off the shelves. For fun.

He has been found himself doing occasional impromptu interrupting and has trained to do French medical interrupting.

So, there are some lazy learners of foreign languages and some that aren't. I recall reading a book years ago written by Maria von Trapp; she told a certain story of a priest who had escaped Austria with the family and traveled with them for a time. She was amazed that whatever country there were in that the priest could read the newspapers tho' having never learned the language. His answer was that he had learned the early languages well, the Latin, Greek, etc. on which the modern languages were based. Now, don't think those skills would have helped much in Asia....

Oh, I have another son who travels overseas due to his job. He also took French in high school, but not enthusiastically. Plus, his high school teachers weren't fluent either, and one was actually a long-term sub. (Following the long-term sub episode, the school hired a teacher who was semi-retired, but had a doctorate in French, thus enhancing the experience of the younger son described above.) But, I still think that having several years of French, learning some French, was better than not. And when he travels to Asia, the Middle East, Russia, etc. it seems to have helped, on the confidence level anyway.

Yet another son....Spanish - yes, comes in handy with the practice of medicine.

So, yes, keep the foreign languages!

Posted by: shadwell1 | April 22, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

"Wy should americans be so arrogant to believe they should not learn another language? The majority of the rest of the world has learned at least one other language."

Becasuse the one other language that the rest of the world learns is usually English. Plus, America is not Europe. We live in a continent where nearly 2/3 of the population speaks the same language.

I don't think that Jay was saying the foreign language is a waste of time... just that it is a waste of time the way we currently teach it.

Posted by: someguy100 | April 22, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I am a qualified State Department contract intepreter, native English speaker, who started Chinese at age 18. I am also fluent in Spanish, and hold a Ph.D in Foreign Language Education. I've been teaching languages for many years.

Jay is precisely right. The way foreign languages are currently taught in MOST high schools is outdated and ineffective. The "Communicative" method is a thing of the 1980s or early 1990s at best. The prevailing wisdom on foreign language teaching holds that students can learn together by "talking to each other". Try putting six teenagers who don't know how to find the area of a circle into a room and see how much calculus they come out with.

Nature/God/a Higher Power/a Mysterious Force/Evolution (take your pick) has provided humans with a brain that wants to communicate with others of its kind. The brain WILL acquire language if it is not prevented from doing so. Schools today teach ABOUT language; that has nothing to do with communication. Memorizing and filling in verb charts is not a natural function.

There is, fortunately, a much more effective means of helping people to acquire a second language quickly. It's comprehensible input-based instruction. I teach Chinese and Spanish this way, providing the student with language they can completely understand from the first moment of class. If the brain has input it can understand (completely -- not by guessing or "pretty close" or "I think this is what it means") it will automatically and without thought construct the grammar and lexicon of the language for itself over time. We see this all the time in young children acquiring their first language.

Since we are not babies and don't have 24 hours a day to acquire a language, as teachers, we speed up the natural acquisition process by optimizing the input. Optimization means making the best use of class time to provide as much comprehensible input as possible, and always remembering that if the brain hasn't understood something, it cannot acquire that language. We teach narrow and deep, because the brain is capable of generalizing from examples if it gets enough of them.

If the author had ever had the chance to interact with students who have been taught a language using a comprehensible-input based method, such as TPRS, he would have cause to change his opinion. Such students routinely achieve fluency during their high school years. They open their mouths and Chinese (Spanish, French, Swahili...) falls out. They're not analyzing and doing some academic exercise about language -- they USE it.

I teach this way in schools and over the Internet for individuals and small groups. I have studied and researched all the methodologies out there. I would never teach or learn a language using anything but comprehensible input. Maybe Jay would like a free lesson to try it out? :-)

Posted by: TerryWaltz | April 22, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Learning another language is not a waste of time.

It is how we go about learning a second language that makes it appear to be a waste of time. The best strategy is to start young and continue the learning throughout ones life. Even a native speaker can forget their own language.

English, for example, you are immersed in it every day you have conversations in it every day, you took grammer in school etc.

Still, I would bet that most native English speakers still are not perfect speakers. We still make errors with our own language.

The point is that language is a skill that we continue to improve upon and acquire through out our lives.

You don't acquire language by taking a few classes and immersing yourself for a few years and then stop.

It is a continuous process.

Posted by: shalexan | April 22, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

"And from what I can see, based on what actually happens in high schools, learning a foreign language often is a waste of time." So is the issue that learning a foreign language is a waste of time or is it that schools need to improve how they are teaching foreign languages? I'd argue the latter, that foreign languages should be encouraged starting in the very early grades when brain development makes it easier for children to hear and learn tones and other sounds not common in English. Even if fluency is not achieved, exposure and practice with other languages broadens peoples' understanding of the world and builds cognitive skills.

Posted by: tcr25 | April 22, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

"learning a foreign language often is a waste of time" - boy you couldn't be more wrong!

I did a lot of research prior to starting my daughter in a Spanish Immersion program 4 years ago. She is now in 4th grade and can read, write, and speak Spanish. It is astonishing to watch her communicate with others in a language foreign to me. I've seen the benefits first hand. She plans to take Mandarin when she enters high school. Imagine graduating high school and being able to speak 3 languages, she could get a job almost anywhere in the world - how's that for Global Leadership and 21st Century skills!

I believe that learning a language at any age is important to expanding your competencies about others. High school students will get out of it what they put into it (we've all been there, but lets continue to blame a teacher). If given the opportunity to visit a country of the language they are learning - they'd get it.

In my research I came across this joke: To speak three languages is being trilingual, to speak two languages is being bilingual, to speak one language is being an American.

Posted by: juliemushing | April 22, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

It is difficult to learn a foreign language. It is something that you have to keep practicing and you have to do some of it on your own. If you think about how long it took you to learn English as a small child, three to four years at least of TOTAL immersion, and that doesn't include reading or writing, you can get an idea of the time requirement.

Just because it is difficult and takes a long time doesn't mean it is a waste of time. The US could use people fluent in other languages, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most schools today teach Spanish, that is better than nothing, but it is not the only other language in the world.

The US does this backwards. It has been proven that the younger you are, the easier it is to pick up a foreign language. Waiting until high school or college is part of the problem. But, whether the schools are requiring it or not, knowing another language can open whole new worlds to you.

It seems to me that people who had poor instruction in languages pass on an attitude to their kids, like math anxiety. Expecting someone to translate a song or a conversation about an unknown topic by two native speakers could be difficult even for native speakers. Of course the foreign language also has people who mumble, too-fast, unintelligible lyrics and regional "accents".

One of my students told me that he was in a grocery store and a Spanish speaking person asked him for help. He was not Hispanic, but Indian, but he was able to help because he had learned about the words for foods in my class. He was thrilled to know that his new language was useful and he learned a few words in the exchange.

The point is, if you have good instruction, you are going to be able to converse about the topics that were covered in your class. You will have to travel or immerse yourself with a group of speakers of the language in order to become fluent.

Posted by: celestun100 | April 22, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

As a soon-to-be college graduate looking for jobs, most of the ones I come across ask for proficiency in another language, usually Spanish. Learning a foreign language is definitely NOT "a waste of time", but how most foreign language teachers/professors teach their classes, I can understand why the author would think so. As a Senior in college, I've had over 11 Spanish teachers since 3rd grade, only two of which were competent, and only one that was inspiring.

There is a fundamental flaw in the way that most Spanish (and I assume, other foreign languages as well) classes are taught in the United States today. However, there are also major flaws in other subjects too! I learned English grammar from my one brilliant Spanish teacher, so that we could have a foundation for studying Spanish grammar.

Schools need to change the way Foreign Languages are taught. More language-intensive foreign exchange programs and study abroad programs would help solidify student's interests in foreign languages and global opportunities. My Spanish skills didn't blossom until I spent one summer in a village in Mexico, teaching public health to school children through the non-profit organization, Amigos de las Americas. Programs like these can really pique a student's interest in another language and are essential to promoting foreign languages in the U.S.

Posted by: Groovychick873 | April 22, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I just have to add, since our educational reformers are very interested in test scores, that I believe there was a study done showing that students who had studied another language in high school scored higher on vocabulary in standardized tests. I can't remember the name of the study or even the test, maybe someone else knows about this. But you can see how knowing the meaning of French, Spanish or Latin would be able to help you with "difficult" English words.

Posted by: celestun100 | April 22, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I think travel language programs are great, however they are very expensive, so who is going to pay for them? I mean they are thinking about cutting the overcrowded language programs they already have. (At the middle school level Spanish and French are considered electives, so there is no real cap on the numbers of students in each class).

The language teachers would love to use TPR and travel to other countries. But that is not going to happen with 35+ students in each class. Realistically I see foreign language learning as a base. If you learn the basics in the US, then when you travel you can build on your language skills. Also, if you are motivated you will begin reading and listening, on your own in the language you choose and you will add to your knowledge of the language that way.

Posted by: celestun100 | April 22, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Learning a second language in middle school and high school is a total waste of time! Students should NOT be required to take it at all. At the least, it should be a choice or an elective class. I had 4 years of Spanish and I can count and say hello and goodbye. It just isn't enough time to really pick up the language and be able to use it fluently. I would much rather have my own children in classes such as technology or something they are really interested in. PLEASE GET IT OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS or STOP making it mandatory!

Posted by: edjook8tr | April 22, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

The travel language program that I participated in was Amigos de las Americas, where at least half of the money (if you received a needs-based scholarship, it could translate to all of the money) for the program comes from fundraising. In my day we sold fruit (clementines were a huge hit!) and worked on a letter-writing campaign to friends and family. I believe they now sell coffee as well.

There are plenty of ways to cut costs for travel programs. There are "student ambassador" programs, scholarships, etc. All it really takes is some creative thinking by individual organizations and the government (if they're willing).

Posted by: Groovychick873 | April 22, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I almost spit out my coffee reading your column this morning, and will take half of my lunch hour to write this. You are usually thoughtful and well-researched, but today's was one of the dumbest, least-justified of your columns I have ever read. If you are trying to say "Languages are badly taught in US schools", then do the homework and write that column. But to say "taking language in school is a waste of time," needs a bit more justification than 1) it did me personally little good, or 2) the President's Science Advisor was using his Latin in high school only to attract women. And this line, "If if we need speakers of exotic tongues, we import them," is so filled with cultural and wealth-based arrogance, I wouldn't know where to start to refute it. Language training is good for understanding grammar and language structure and for the brain in general, encourages us to interact with different cultures and countries and to think globally rather than only locally, and lastly, reminds us that more than 90 percent of this planet are not native English speakers. To your mono-lingual bias I say, as my trilingual grandmother used to say to me, when chiding my ignorance on a topic:"Go to school"!

Posted by: arnaudo | April 22, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

@Groovychick873

The other advantage to traveling is that the students actually get to experience living in another language and culture and that experience is priceless!

In my "ideal world of education that will never exist" I would mandate that kindergartners thru eighth grade take a foreign language. After that it is a choice. Continue or not? That way the little kids, who are more open to learning, in part because it is easier for them get a chance to become fluent in more than one language.

Posted by: celestun100 | April 22, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Perché perdere tempo a leggere Jay Matthews?

為什麼要浪費時間閱讀 Jay Matthews?

Bakit-aksaya ng oras sa pagbabasa Jay Matthews?

Зачем тратить время на чтение Jay Matthews?

Posted by: adcteacher1 | April 22, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"We talk about the importance of foreign language learning to our national security, but we don’t mean it. If if we need speakers of exotic tongues, we import them." You clearly know NOTHING about the vetting process of analysts in the national security field.

I am both a foreign language teacher and a pursuant in a career in analysis, and I can assure you that not only is it extremely difficult for a foreigner to obtain a position inside agencies, it is dangerous for us to allow such a thing to occur.

Posted by: GretchenA | April 22, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Perché perdere tempo a leggere Jay Matthews?

為什麼要浪費時間閱讀 Jay Matthews?

Bakit-aksaya ng oras sa pagbabasa Jay Matthews?

Зачем тратить время на чтение Jay Matthews?

Posted by: adcteacher1 | April 22, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Last time I checked, English is the "unofficial" language of this country. "En EE UU, hable ingles, por favor!"
Jay is correct that most Americans haven't mastered English and aren't ready for another language. The sorry excuse for a high school I attended offered German, but unfortunately, didn't hire a teacher qualified to teach it. So, they put in a math teacher who didn't speak German. He "learned" it along with the class. I did well, but I also had outside tutoring.

Posted by: kodonivan | April 22, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I could have written this piece. I'm having an impact! Whoohoo!

1) FOR MOST STUDENTS, learning language is a waste of time unless they are immersed in it at a young age. Some students have an aptitude. Language, like music and art, should be elective.

2) The reason people give lip service to the importance of foreign language is two fold. Those with aptitude don't understand those without out. A far larger group is the one who demands we study other language as a way of apologizing for American power. Everyone in other countries learns English because it's economically useful. We're the only people who force our kids to learn other languages so that we don't look too arrogant.

3) If it's important for kids to learn about other modern cultures, then teach them about a modern country WITHOUT the language.

4) Finally, language study is becoming a way for non-English speakers to game the system. English speakers are forced to compete in grades and AP scores with kids who have spoken the language from birth. It's a positive joke.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | April 22, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

@celestun100

I completely agree. I also did a foreign exchange program (in Warsaw, Poland) in elementary school, which was absolutely amazing. And I agree that is a completely idealistic view, but I can dream, right?!

Posted by: Groovychick873 | April 22, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Is learning a foreign language a waste of time? Then, middle and high schools are too. Who is indeed using Geometry in real life? There are wonderful “carpet size calculators” online. And what's the percentage of the population using second-degree equations? Let’s follow your logic and drop math after the elementary school! We use maps, GPS and online resources when we travel (so why geography?), spell-checkers when we write - sometimes (forget spelling!), I never found the need to know what’s under animal or human skin (forget biology!)… Oh, but right now, I am writing in my second language!
Foreign language was therefore the most useful class of all for me! It allowed me to choose to live in a different country.
And learning about other cultures is priceless.

Posted by: bastings | April 22, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Are you kidding me? a waste of time? Since when is taking ANY course a waste of time. Is not the job of a school to EDUCATE so that students are aware, question and hopefully learn? Why would any course be a waste of time? Anyone who knows ANYTHING about acquiring a foreign language, knows that it takes years to speak it and write it. We have 45 minutes each day (some 90 min. 3 days a week) to teach the language. Are you intimidated by people who can speak other languages? sure sounds like it.

Posted by: maddiesoma | April 22, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

When Jay Matthews writes "A high school teacher said that “language study is complete nonsense for most people. I’d wager close to 80.percent of kids taking foreign languages in high school do so because they have to.”

I say I'd wager 80% of kids going to school do so because they have to. So guess what? Let's close all schools altogether!

One would conclude after reading this column that Jay Matthews is just not capable of thinking right, but wait... Did he admit that his own two children did take Spanish in school and use it daily now? Oh no, it was just because he had sent them to visit a Spanish speaking country, not because they actually were taught by Spanish teachers.

Now, let's close foreign language classes and send our students on two-week trips to foreign lands, they will come back transformed!

My friend Jay, you should have just spelled it out: make your kids not take foreign languages so they do not compete with my own kids whom I had take Spanish! That would have been a noble thing to do. Wait did I say noble? Noble and Jay do not rime, I am sorry for the mistake!

Posted by: LenguasLanguesLanguages | April 22, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those who say that language is not a waste of time! Foreign language is a great learning experience. Only reason everyone in high school thinks it is a waste is because they look at it from the perspective that they have to take a language and it is forced on them. However, if one really looks at the beneficial side of it and looks at it as an opportunity to experience a new side of the world, it would not be boring or waste for them. I agree that many people do not use their knowledge after high school because it is very limited but now a days knowing another language is very very important. Any career one steps into, having knowledge of other languages puts them at a higher level and a higher demand for them.
I know four languages, yet I would love to learn more languages and be able to converse with people of other countries and be able to help others out when they have difficulty understanding.

Posted by: mariam_nadri | April 22, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I was going to write in and say that my five years of middle and high school Spanish have been waaay more useful to me than the four years I spent in Geometry, Trig, Functions, and Calculus, but I'm gladdened to see that so many people beat me to it. While not every student will take to a foreign language as I did and become proficient, engaging in the mental gymnastics of even trying to learn the mechanics of another language will be beneficial, guaranteed. It's like saying that PE is a waste of time for anyone who doesn't then go on to become a professional athlete. Huh?

Posted by: kberg1 | April 22, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Most of the time I have to deal with the realities of the education system, but sometimes I like to think "what if. . ." What if teenagers had a chance to learn more stuff--tap dancing, martial arts, foreign language, welding, getting a pilot's license. In the midst of standards and budget cuts, is someone out there dreaming about tapping into teen passion for trying new stuff--I know, some teens just want to be "anywhere else but here," but many want to lose themselves in some intense study. Don't laugh, but how many teens secretly watch "Glee" and think why can't I have something like that in my life?

Posted by: pittypatt | April 22, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

The author states at the top of the article that he believes that "learning another language improves cognitive development, enhances academic skills, and encourages a sense of the wider world and looks good to colleges," but by the end he's decided that the detractors have a point?

The point isn't that language learning is a waste of time, it's that the U.S K-12 schools do not start language training early enough, do not focus enough on the languages critical for national and economic security like Arabic, Chinese, Persian and Russian, and do not make the subject matter integrated with other learning activities except in a few immersion programs.

Also, parents, students and administrators need to know that U.S. employers DESPERATELY need workers with foreign language and culture skills. Check out this recent report that confirms this: http://tinyurl.com/353cx8y

Posted by: lauraporter6 | April 22, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Learning a foreign language is NEVER a waste of time....no learning is.

Even students who can't speak the language afterwards have developed insight into another culture, into vocabulary (their own as well as that of another language) and they have been using parts of their brain that other subjects don't exercise. I teach in a Frecnh immersion program, and have for 29 years. Students who came back at our 30 year celebration have reported many lasting rewards of their education in French, the least of which is speaking the language...how about becoming more of a risk-taker, being more sensitive to other cultures and people, being better at following directions, having more self-confidence, being comfortable traveling in any country, etc.?

No, I do not use advanced geometry in my life; I do not remember the Latin history that I learned; Earth Science will never be a topic of conversation at my dinner table, but I still feel, as a life-long learner, that these subjects that I studied in high school make me who I am today, and have added to my being a productive, intelligent adult.

Can a second language be taught more effectively? perhaps...That's a good topic for discussion. However, I firmly believe that learning any language at any age in any way has its rewards.

Posted by: gouindon1 | April 22, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't one of the conclusions of the 9/11 panel that the government had plenty of documents pointing to a possible attack but they hadn't yet been translated because of a lack of Arab-speaking people in intelligence? Granted, it's not possible to teach schoolchildren the specific foreign language the country might need them to know as adults, but all studies I have seen show that a child who learns a foreign language at a very early age can learn other languages much more easily as an adult. (They also learn their own language and math much more easily.)

The schools don't really want you to "learn" a language--just sit in the class. (Literally; one of my high-school classmates had grown up in Latin America with an American father and Latin American mother and was bi-lingual. The high school wouldn't give her credit for Spanish until she had attended class all year. Didn't make her learn a third langauge, either.)

Posted by: sideswiththekids | April 22, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

@sideswiththekids
They want you to prove class time because most of the speaking practice activities are done in class. Sometimes students who already can speak the language can't read or write the language. On the other hand, there are students from other countries who are struggling to learn English, so schools don't always require that they learn a third language as English is their second language. It is not that the school doesn't want the student to "learn". Your classmate was a special case, she already knew 2 languages but, it wouldn't have been fair to give her credit for Spanish if she didn't attend class. Her parents should have make her take another language, but maybe they thought the culture change and adjustment was enough.
They do have some classes for native speakers of the languages (mostly Spanish) that include more reading of literature and higher level writing.

Posted by: celestun100 | April 22, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

celestun100: Odd that the colleges allow students to let students skip courses courses by taking a test or demonstrating proficiency in a program. In fact, a relative who had always wanted to attend college but was too busy working to put her daughters through recently graduated with an associate's degree in business--part of it was credit the college had given her for various jobs she had held that demonstrated she already knew the material the course was supposed to teach. Plenty of students enter college with credit received for AP courses, and all colleges I know of allow students, to take CLEP exams and receive credit. Colleges also also FORBID students to take Spanish I or French I or whatever if they score high enough on the placement exam.

I've often wondered why high schools can't do the same--it would do more to motivate students to learn than even paying them would do.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | April 22, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

That is a good idea. I guess they would have to agree upon an exam. I would like to see the kids get credit for what they know. I guess you might get a lot of complaining from people who didn't think it was fair that some kids could get credits without taking the course. You would also have to have tests in many languages.
I know that I personally don't like it if I am required to take a course in something I already know in order to fulfill a requirement.

Posted by: celestun100 | April 22, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Jay Matthew’s column ‘Why Waste Time on a Foreign Language?’ merits a response. While Mr. Matthews and his supporters may accurately depict high school language programs as being far from perfect in achieving language fluency, the notion of limiting or discouraging further instruction is the wrong response. Our schools, parents, and teachers should encourage language study as one part of an overall curriculum that ensures global competence of our high school graduates. Further, schools should encourage, rather than discourage an authentic, educational experience abroad for all of these reasons, and more. To say we can continue to import these competencies fails to challenge and inspire our youth to be world citizens.

As president of Youth For Understanding USA, I am proud of our record in developing citizens of the world. We have facilitated more than 240,000 home stays for students since our founding in 1951. Studies have proven that the best time to study abroad is from age 15 to 18. While it might be easier to learn a new language at a younger age, high school students are highly adaptable but also independent enough to thrive and think critically about the differences in culture. Exposure to a foreign culture for a teenager over a semester or academic year builds confidence, intellectual curiosity, and language fluency. It also develops world citizens and young adults that companies in this increasingly flat world want to hire. Let's stop importing talent, and focus on developing these talents in our own youth.

I also congratulate Mr. Matthews on allowing his sons to study abroad in Latin America to achieve their language fluency. This experience seems to have served them well.

Posted by: finnell | April 22, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

So many people question the usefulness of foreign language because they forget it if they don't continue to use it after graduating. I sure don't remember much math since I haven't taken it since high schoo, so should I launch a crusade against kids studying math in school? I mean, talk about abstract and useless! All those pointless numbers! I am going to go ahead and say that cultural prejudice, zenophobia, and national chauvinism--all qualities richly woven into the tapestry of our unconscious--motivate the particularly zealous opposition to foreign language study. If there is another logical explanation, I'd love to hear it.

Posted by: rslesman | April 22, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

So many people question the usefulness of foreign language because they forget it if they don't continue to use it after graduating. I sure don't remember much math since I haven't taken it since high schoo, so should I launch a crusade against kids studying math in school? I mean, talk about abstract and useless! All those pointless numbers! I am going to go ahead and say that cultural prejudice, zenophobia, and national chauvinism--all qualities richly woven into the tapestry of our unconscious--motivate the particularly zealous opposition to foreign language study. If there is another logical explanation, I'd love to hear it.

Posted by: rslesman | April 22, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I have taken 4 years of Spanish while in high school and never got a grade lower than a B, but I am still very far from being fluent. To earn those grades I didn't have to work nearly as hard as I did for my core classes but I still earned as good a grade if not better in my Spanish classes. I think that students don't take foreign language classes as serious as their other classes because they know that most people never use their foreign language skills in real life which makes them much less motivated to work hard and actually learn the language than those who know they want to use their language in their career. And to be honest, so many people are successful in life without knowing a foreign language because they don't have to. So, until it becomes a necessity, like it is in other countries to learn English, it will be very difficult to get students motivated to take it seriously.

Posted by: BeauR | April 22, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey Jay, come visit my AP classroom any old time and tell me my students can't communicate well.

What do you know about students earning high grades for little progress? Where do you get your stats from? How do you measure proficiency?

While all children do not have a high language aptitude nor will all become fluent in a FL they still have the right to take the class if they want. It seems that this whole push for 5 years of FL in order to be attractive to colleges is very unique in only certain areas of our country.

Posted by: fabtular | April 22, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

If you wait to learn a language in high school it may not be the best use of your time unless you are motivated or you have an exceptional teacher. But the real point you should be making is that languages should start in elementary school before the brain loses is facility to rapidly take up new languages around age twelve. The value of learning another language goes far beyond simply communicating; it truly does connect one with other cultures, places and people in an entirely different way; it changes often changes one's understanding of the world - something rather important for Americans who tend to ignore other cultures.

Posted by: jdoherty1 | April 22, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

I have taken five years of spanish at my high school and yes I have gotten very far in my spanish skills from when I didnt know anything. With practice, one can become fluent in the language expecially if one visits a spanish speaking country and speaks the language there. Its a matter of putting time and effort into learning the language and having the motivation to learn something new and to think of it as a core class and not something you have to take. At times, I wish I was not sitting in my spanish class but other times, I really enjoy the class.

Posted by: xodesiblonde1992xo | April 22, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

I am in my fifth year of Spanish and to tell you the truth I probably wouldn't be able to carry out a conversation in Spanish outside the classroom. I believe like all classes, but especially world language classes-IT IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT! If you put in the effort not inside, but outside the classroom such as practicing and utilizing the language; you get so much out of it than someone who just studies really hard for the tests and quizzes to get an "A" in the class. Instead of tests like multiple choice and "fill in the correct verb", tests should be on verbal communication to see how much or little the students demonstrate their true understanding of the language they are being taught. I think world language classes are very important, however it really depends on the student and how much they want to put the time and effort in it to actually LEARN the language.

Posted by: DorthyMarie | April 22, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I am in my fifth year of Spanish in high school and even though I had the full intention to stop Spanish after I had learned it for three years (that’s the requirement in my county to graduate with an advanced diploma), I still happened to take another year of Spanish. While at first, I did think it was a waste of time. Now, I realize that as the world is becoming more globalized, knowing another language other than English is very important. Also, knowing another language also helps you stand out in your resume when looking for a job. Now that I am in my fifth year of Spanish, I know that I’m not taking this class because it’s required. I am taking this class because I want to take it and learn Spanish fluently. I will also continue to take it in college.

Posted by: Anuj1992 | April 22, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

I whole agree with the argument; teaching foreign languages in school is a great idea but it is a failed attempt to teach kids how to communicate in other languages because of the lack of time students spend talking in the language. Emergent programs are the only way for students to efficiently learn a language without physically going to a foreign country. So to wrap it up, taking a foreign language is a waste of time in school unless pursued with enthusiasm.

Posted by: frankthetank0010 | April 22, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

As a high schooler in Mont. Co. public schools I took the highest level of French, French 5. At the time students were encouraged to take French since it was considered the "diplomat's language." I did not become fluent in conversation but fell in love with the literature and was very well prepared in classical studies and philosophy for college, due to French study. To this day I am grateful I was able to read Moliere and the French philosophers in their own language, and there is nothing like it. I think fluency comes with living daily life in a country and language study, for many people can't match it but it certainly can instill an appreciation of another culture, which this world needs.

Posted by: aainsworth1 | April 22, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Mr Matthews, you admit that you weren't serious about learning grammar (etc) until you wanted a job abroad.

So how is it anyone's fault but your own that you didn't learn a language well?

Should a teacher have made you care more? I'm sure there were serious students in your class.

Posted by: mikecapitolhill | April 23, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

I am disgusted by this article. It provides no evidence or support of any kind for the ill-informed opinion that foreign language study is essentially useless. I have many students in my French 1 class who may never become fluent in French, but studying the language and culture helps them understand that the world does not consist entirely of strip malls, that Panera is not a gourmet restaurant, that culture exists elsewhere outside of their tiny corner of the world. And one of the students in the class recently got a chance to play soccer in Switzerland. What do you know, French is turning out to be relevant for him after all. Shame on you, Jay Matthews.

Posted by: dbfitzgerald | April 23, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Foreign languages are NOT a waste of time. It would help if schools hired teachers who could actually speak the language. Perhaps that would motivate kids.

I tutor kids whose teachers make so many mistakes in grading and even creating materials. I am currently in a teacher certification program and I hope I can make some difference!

Posted by: cdenniss | April 23, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Couldn't agree more with Jay's logic: I had 13 years of math and can't remember most of it, don't use it in my daily life, and didn't need it to get hired. Therefore, math (beyond arithmetic and basic algebra is a waste of time); let's get rid of it. I had years of physics, biology, chemistry (including APs) and don't use either in my daily life or for my job. Therefore science is a waste of time; let's get rid of it in schools. We import scientists from abroad if we need them. However, like Jay's two kids, I do use the foreign languages I learned in school on a daily basis --- which, of course, I din't know when I studied them. What does that mean?

Posted by: ingrid3 | April 23, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I support teaching foreign languages in public schools starting in elementary school. But first I would like to know, why is it that American students never become fluent and every European kid seems to speak at least 3 languages fluently including English?

Also, over 20% of students in our school district are assigned the label ESL students. More speak a second language but passed the test to get out. Yet we focus the efforts of foreign language instruction on American mono-lingual students. There is very little discussion about supporting students who already speak another language in the acquisition of literacy in their heritage language. Our Spanish classes are all geared toward English speakers learning Spanish. We have no separate classes for students already fluent in speaking Spanish. I have proposed a Learning to Learn Any Foreign Language class so that our students who speak Somali, Punjabi, Cambodian, Samoan, and other languages can learn the strategies for becoming literate in their language. The techniques are the same, 3X5 cards and practice, practice, practice. Students could find mentors in their communities to help them. The school could provide fonts and on line access to newspapers around the world.

Even if a student does not become fluent in another language it is still the best way for students to learn that there are very different and interesting cultural and artistic traditions of other countries. That alone in worth a student's time.

Posted by: suenoir | April 23, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I am grateful for the number of comments refuting this absurd claim that learning another language is a waste of time.

Without these Class Struggle and Admissions 101 would be irredeemably demoralising. The claim that learning can be a waste of time is devastating, and frankly perplexing. If that's your belief, why go to University? As usual, this entire column and all its electronic ancillaries appear to be about getting in to University, but not caring about what is done there or why one goes at all.

As for the American arrogance on display courtesy of Jay and these others who claim learning a foreign language is a time waster, the less I say the better. I am disgusted beyond the point of decent expression.

Posted by: Hunterwali | April 23, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Okay, so those of you who whine about the terrible terrible sin of declaring that a class for SOME PEOPLE is a waste of time:

Do you support forcing kids to take two years of art and two years of music despite a lack of interest and aptitude? They should be forced to spend time sitting in class where they won't get a good grade or that they have no interest, and be compared with students who do have interest and aptitude, thus ensuring their GPA is hurt? You're all okay with that?

You aren't forced to take a music class in high school. You are given a long list of options that can satisfy a creative requirement. Ditto art. Similarly, foreign language could be "Other worlds, other cultures", and you could satisfy one year of credit either by studying a foreign language or by studying modern Filipino history, or whatever.

Because that's really the issue here, not the non-issue you are all wailing about.

Should foreign language be like music and art, or should it be like math and science?

Those of you who are arguing it should be like math and science need a better case.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | April 23, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The author calls taking a foreign language a waste of time because he personally had several bad experiences. He admits his children have benefited from language instruction and overseas experience. The implication is that foreign language is a waste of time for everyone. That is where the disagreement comes in.

The other assumption here is that FL teachers grade easily. Some people are implying that because they are not fluent they shouldn't have gotten A's or B's in their foreign language classes. While I have no idea how much these people studied, I do know that teachers do not grade students on fluency, except in the sense of being "fluent" at the beginner level, using the vocabulary that has been taught.

Just because you didn't like a class personally, doesn't mean that it is a waste of time for everyone. Some people love taking foreign languages and DC area has many great foreign language teachers. (At least Montgomery County does).

Posted by: celestun100 | April 23, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

my name is Heidi
and i totally disagree with this
Not all people are like you which means that not everyone thinks foreign languages in school are a waste of time.

It's not possible to perfectly learn a language in a few years, we can't even learn our native languages perfectly in a whole lifetime. Also, high school foreign language classes are what prompts students to want to learn more about a language, maybe in college they would want to visit that country to learn the language more.

Our society today is looking for more multilingual people and by opening up foreign language classes in high school students can see what language they would like to learn and if they don't like it then maybe it's just not the right path for them.

If foreign languages are taken out of schools then it is destroying another great opportunity for students who actually care about learning foreign languages

Posted by: imanewkoricander | April 23, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

This is a great discussion, not helped much by my clumsy writing of this piece. I was trying to say that foreign language is important and we need to find ways to teach it better and motivate students more. Some readers got that, I see, but some of these comments, and emails I received, indicate that others read the piece as saying that learning a foreign language is not important. Upon rereading the piece, I see now how astute readers could get that impression. My apologies. I will try to do better next time.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | April 23, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

This is a great discussion, not helped much by my clumsy writing of this piece. I was trying to say that foreign language is important and we need to find ways to teach it better and motivate students more. Some readers got that, I see, but some of these comments, and emails I received, indicate that others read the piece as saying that learning a foreign language is not important. Upon rereading the piece, I see now how astute readers could get that impression. My apologies. I will try to do better next time.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | April 23, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Jay-
Does that mean you will write another article about how important it is for schools to retain good foreign language teachers?
:)

Posted by: celestun100 | April 23, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

"Why is it that American students never become fluent and every European kid seems to speak at least 3 languages fluently including English?" Partly because European schools teach languages from a very early age instead of waiting until high school. The other reason is that Europeans hear many more languages and have more chances to use the languages. Unless they live in a very large city or or near a border, Americans have to spend a lot of money to gain exposure to foreign radio or television. My public library has foreign books, but a most of them are current novels--the sort I don't read in English! I have tried looking up foreign news stories on the Internet; this doesn't help verbal fluency, and unless you know the source, you can't be sure if you don't understand it or if the writer is only semi-literate.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | April 23, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

As a fourth-year student of Spanish, I can attest to the fact that the curriculum is hardly effective and that, in the end, high school foreign language classes are generally a waste of time. A short visit to one of my school's Spanish classrooms would be sufficient to convince anyone that very few students have learned anything coherent or, for that matter, even care. Meanwhile, the painfully slow curriculum, which accommodates such students rather well, serves to draw out the process of instruction to all four years of high school. Serious students of Spanish have little choice but to sit through monotonous repetition, hoping to glean occasional pieces of new information and the ever-important college-required language credit.
The requirements themselves are in large part to blame for this. For colleges to require the standard two years of a foreign language in order to be admitted is to give high schools little choice but to do the same as a graduation requirement. Honestly, not much thought is required to realize that two years of foreign language instruction is not enough to allow for any meaningful communication, not to mention the amount of knowledge that is lost almost universally due to the simple passage of time. In order to provide for students who have been forced into the two-year-requirement trap, the grading scale is altered to give them something for nothing. In fact, my Spanish teacher (knowing that I am able to speak Spanish well regardless of my grades) has offered me a great deal of extra credit for simply sending in my comments regarding your article.

Posted by: ItsNickBarry | April 23, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

It's definitely true that most high school students don't achieve fluency and that we learn very little with foreign languages, at least in my experience. Since I already know a second language, I thought learning a third would be easier than other subjects in high school. But it's hard to learn that language when, like you said, teachers reward you for doing very little and don't stress learning through experience or repetition. Of course I didn't mind watching all three Back to the Future's, in English, in Spanish 1.

But I don't agree that it's a waste of time, because although we are not fluent, it teaches a different way of learning new material and thinking because everything is foreign. I think it also cultivates a curiosity to understand a different language or culture. It's good to be exposed to that.

Posted by: jjanisis | April 23, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I am in my fifth year of Spanish and I have always gotten good grades. At first it used to be about actually learning the language but now it is mainly about getting good grades and looking good for the years of education to come. I know that I have learned a lot but I have not learned enough to be able to carry out a full conversation in Spanish. I think that schools should put more of an emphasis on grammar so students will be able to carry out conversations. If this were to happen, I believe more students would take foreign languages because they would actually get something out of it. Instead, most students take a language to get an advanced diploma and when they finish their three years, they stop. I have seen a majority of my friends do this and that’s not what a foreign language is about. When you finish a foreign language you should have enough understanding of it to have a conversation with a fluent speaker.

Posted by: reannaherbert | April 23, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

i actually think it is a waste of time and at the same time it's not because you are getting something out of it no matter what. even if you learn the basic of a language you still understand what people are saying and you can use it in many different ways. like if you go to another country you dont need to know all the language you can even know the basics of it. for example, if you are trying to ask someone where the hospital is or the bathroom those words are the basic words for every languge. but at the same time its kinda of a waste of time. like maybe you are never going to use that language and instead of worring too much in studying that you could be studying something else, thats actually going to help your future or later on in life. I think people should learn the language thats more spoken like, spanish or french. because i think it would be a waste if you learn a language that onle one contry speaks it or not so many people know it because in that case you are probably never going to use it. but i mostly think its not a wate of time because you obviously get something out of it even you dont want to be in that class. you learn something no matter what.

Posted by: aracely_romero | April 23, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm a senior in high school,I've taken Spanish for five years, and while I'd admit that in-class only language learning is significantly less effective than real-life immersion, I still feel that language classes are a very important part of the public school system. Most other countries require children to learn another language starting in elementary school, and they usually learn English. If American students are behind other countries in maths and sciences, why should we make excuses as to why we shouldn't have to bother ourselves with learning such a useful life skill? If public schools can spend hundreds of dollars on unnecessary things like new technology, why can't we use our reserves more wisely and put that money towards more important things, like improving the foreign language departments in our schools? I'd personally rather have a stronger basis in language skills than a flat screen TV in every hallway of the school.

Posted by: sarahkarns92 | April 23, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

"When I was a ninth-grader, upperclassman Holdren bought me as his slave for the annual Latin Banquet."

Whoa ho! Now THAT explains a lot! Did he make you wear those Greek sandals and whip you soundly? (sorry, but I'm enjoying the mental imagery)

http://zombietime.com/john_holdren/

Posted by: lisamc31 | April 23, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

For all the talking our superintendents do about helping students follow their passions, it's pretty clear that the majority of Americans are not intrinsically motivated. I think the real problem here is a different one than the initial question about World Language; we really should be asking: what's wrong with us that our education system seems to incentivize our students toward seeing only a quantifiable payback?

Student reannaherbert hints at this. The whole system is devised to make you care more and more about what the next level (college? employer?) will value, and not what you as an individual care about. We're mostly sheep, in a sad way, because we can't resist this -- which is NOT AT ALL to say that it's easy to resist.

Maybe if we focused on critical thinking and philosophy more, even at younger ages (and even if it's really, really hard to put on The Standardized Test), we'd help to engender autonomous thinkers and push back on misconceived, oversimplified notions of value at the next level. I like Emerson's statement, from "Self-Reliance": "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."

Posted by: carlrosin | April 24, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

And about the grades: those of us who work in high schools know how intense the pressure is to inflate grades in electives. Consider the context: if, hypothetically, the Latin teacher is a very stern grader and the Chinese teacher is generous, those kids who are merely in it for instrumental (as opposed to intrinsic) reasons have a strong incentive to go Chinese.

Directions to go? Bolster the teaching (and the focus on it, as Jay suggests), monitor the grades more closely (good luck!), and/or redesign the system to help "grow" hardier students who are less influenced by grades. Not easy...very worthwhile.

Posted by: carlrosin | April 24, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

@carlrosin

It was surprising to me how many parents didn't seem to care whether their children learned the language or not, they were very concerned that the grade be an "A" or a "B" .
Some were that way even if it were clear the student didn't understand the concepts. Others wanted their "D" students to go on to the next level, not understanding or caring that the next level would be more difficult.
(I mean students who scored a "D" on the final or in coursework, not that they would be "D" students forever) And, of course most people are not that way, but some are and it is mind-boggling!

Posted by: celestun100 | April 24, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I do not agree with this article. I believe that learning a second language is a necessary and beneficial skill to learn for life. Learning a second language can open many doors and opportunities to students. Although many students do not learn a lot from language courses, the level of proficiency that student's reach is dependent on how much effort the individual student puts into the class, and not necessarily a reflection on the study of foreign languages. Many students elect to continue their study of foreign language and actually do learn from these courses. Most students only take a foreign language because it is required or to get into college, but nonetheless, learning a foreign language it is still a very important and beneficial skill.

Posted by: meganq | April 24, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

I think learning a foreign language is a waste of time only if you are not committing to learning the language. I am currently taking my fourth year of Spanish and I am enjoying it very much. Even though the tests and projects are hard, I like learning a new language that will help me to communicate with people from a different country who speak that language. Like what DorothyMarie said, I think it is better to focus on the verbal part of learning. Doing everything on paper will only increase our skills as a writer but not as a speaker. Learning a language is very beneficial because it gives us an opportunity to learn about the other countries and be able to speak to the people from a different country. I believe that learning a new language is not wasting our time because eventually, it will be useful to us.

Posted by: kaeunji | April 24, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

A wise letter writer to the NYTimes noted recently what foreign language facility can mean. Over coffee or lunch in another country, you converse with the host or maybe a potential business partner for several minutes before turning to discussion and appreciation for the host's culture and politics, very likely in English. but, why would or should you be as trusted, if you spoke only English?

Posted by: incredulous | April 25, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

A wise letter writer to the NYTimes noted recently what foreign language facility can mean. Over coffee or lunch in another country, you converse with the host or maybe a potential business partner for several minutes before turning to discussion and appreciation for the host's culture and politics, very likely in English. but, why would or should you be as trusted, if you spoke only English?

Posted by: incredulous | April 25, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

my overall stance regarding the usefulness of world language classes would be that they are in fact very useless pertaining to the current curriculum structure in our nations K12 system. If our nations leaders really believe that learning various languages are indeed that beneficial and necessary for our nations people to learn as global citizens, then it should be assimilated into the K12 curriculum as a core subject taught from day one of a child's kindergarten class until that student graduates from high school. The course should be treated like any English class. For this idea to be successful, the language would also have to be incorporated into the students daily life somehow. I work at a local chick-fil-a and work with several other employees who speak fluent Spanish and don't necessarily speak English very well. This allows me to "attempt" to use my spanish to better interact with these individuals. Languages are tough, incorporating the proper tenses and grammatical structures on the go during a fast paced conversation is a very difficult task to accomplish. I feel as if high school courses do not make much if any progress towards reaching that goal as of now.

Posted by: KMart19 | April 25, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I think that learning foreign languages are very important especially in our globalized world. I also feel that making languages mandatory is not the way to go. I think that the students who want to learn the language should be encouraged and there will always be those who want to.
If languages are mandatory then there will be a large majority of students who are just there because they have to be and will get in the way of the progress of the students who are there because they want to be. Also, the school can spend less money on hiring new teachers, and since there are less teachers, there will be more teachers who are adamant about teaching the language and not just there for lack of a job. This will also improve the quality of students produced.

Posted by: imwes | April 25, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

You quote Cal Lanier as a high school teacher. What subject does she teach? Physics? Maybe PE? What subject do High School students clamor to take?
Did your wife ever take a spoken language and find it useful?
I'd like my questions answered Mr. Matthews!

Posted by: eagercommunicator | April 25, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Many aspects of this article regarding how effective foreign language classes are true, yet I still believe that the potential of students is overlooked. I am a high school student studying my last year of Spanish, and I believe that those who are truly serious about a foreign language get the most out of high school classes. Yet in a foreign language, as in almost every other subject, it is almost impossible to gain full understanding without leaving the classroom and learning in real-life situations. Maybe the reason some students “developed few conversational skills” is because they weren’t put into the proper environment or tested in a real world situation to the point where they could successfully achieve these skills. I believe that foreign languages in high schools are imperative regardless of whether a student reaches fluency, or if they don’t wish to pursue the language further. Studying world languages prompts students (mostly at a higher level) to learn from the ground up, and build their own foundation for continuing a language.

Posted by: zahmed25 | April 25, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Sure, a lot of class time spent in foreign language classes is wasted. To appease my parents and for the sake of my resume, I have taken a foreign language since it was offered in 1st grade at my private school. Yes, I spent seven years learning and re-learning all of three tenses in French. No, I do not remember any of it since making the switch to Spanish.
Maybe that's a waste. But you can say that about any high school class. All the years of math classes have not had nearly as big as an impact as my Spanish classes have. Even if I was not interested in the language until high school, it was my great teachers who inspired me (and my bad teachers who pushed me to learn on my own) to travel to three Spanish speaking countries, explore their cultures, and serve their communities. I don't take math right now as a senior and will not pursue a math-oriented career, yet that is a class no one would dare to cut for budgetary purposes.
I am not suggesting that foreign languages be made a core class or math an elective. But just like any other class, the way one chooses to apply it is what will ultimately make it a waste, or well worth one's time.

Posted by: klucas1 | April 25, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

I thnik that taking a language in high school is very important, even if people don't get very far and only learn the basics. Studying other languages is a great way to become more culturally diverse and to expand your knowledge on different means of communication. Living in a world where communication is what moves society, it is important to be able to understand various languages in order to better adapt to different situations. If you learn various languages at an early age it can help improve your employment potential for future career options. When it comes to selling a product, you have to understand the psychology and belief structure of your client, and communicate through personal interaction. To sharpen cognitive and life skills is important for America’s youth. Studying a foreign language can enhance one’s ability to learn and function in several other areas. People who have learned foreign languages tend to show greater development in areas such as mental flexibility, creativity, problem-solving, conceptualizing, and reasoning. Most colleges and universities are requiring a minimum of two years high school foreign language experience for admission. Majority of universities consider knowledge of a foreign language to be a culture part of what every educated person should know. Being able to understand and communicate with people of various languages is an important element throughout one’s life.

Posted by: kcramz6 | April 25, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

I'll agree that foreign language in high school can be a waste of time if not properly taught or if there is a lack of effort on the students part. Part of the problem, at least where I'm from, is that languages are forced on students at a time when they don't want anything forced on them (languages are first available in 8th grade). If languages are to be a requirement, the effort needs to be made to start them sooner and increase the amount of opportunities for students to go abroad.

Posted by: bakoztaco | April 25, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

I think taking a foreign language is important because it gives you a basic understanding, so you are not completely clueless when it comes to the subject. It allows you to communicate with more people and be more diverse. I have taken five years of a foreign language throughout high school, mainly because of college, and feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the language. In order to really learn a foreign language, and be able to speak fluently, I believe one has to travel to another country and be exposed to the culture on a daily basis. Whether or not foreign languages in high schools are a waste of time and money completely depend on the students and how they choose to utilize the information presented to them.

Posted by: katrinanguyen92 | April 25, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Foreign languages taught in high school ARE a waste of time.
This is not to say that foreign languages themselves are a waste of time, because they are not. But if foreign languages are to be learned correctly, they need to be taught at an earlier age, when the minds of children are more impressionable, perceptive, and willing to learn the difficult material that a foreign language contains. If foreign languages were taught starting in Kindergarten, for example, children would have a much higher fluency rate than they do now. This is why schools that have Foreign Language Immersion programs are so successful. Other than the obvious psychological benefits of learning a foreign language at a younger age, high schoolers do not have the time or the willingness to learn such a difficult subject. A significant chunk of time must be devoted to practicing a language every day in order to be successful, and most students do not have a significant amount of time left after extracurriculars, AP courses, and the homework that they receive from other classes.
Ultimately foreign languages ARE important, and I believe that everyone should learn one, but they should not be started in high school.

Posted by: mvassallo611 | April 25, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

I have been taking spanish for four years now and I haven't learned very much but have still managed to have at least a B every year which was not deserved at all. Although some kids get a lot out of foreign languages, most do not. Most kids will never be fluent in the language that they take in high school and will never use it in the career that they choose to take. Based on this, what is the point in wasting our time taking foregin languages when we could be using that time to take classes that we will definitely use in the future? Languages should be offered but not required. They should be elective courses because they will be much more successful with students that are actually interested in the language taking the class rather than being full of kids who are only in the class as a requirement to graduate.

Posted by: MeaganCallahan | April 25, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

I have been taking spanish for four years now and I haven't learned very much but have still managed to have at least a B every year which was not deserved at all. Although some kids get a lot out of foreign languages, most do not. Most kids will never be fluent in the language that they take in high school and will never use it in the career that they choose to take. Based on this, what is the point in wasting our time taking foregin languages when we could be using that time to take classes that we will definitely use in the future? Languages should be offered but not required. They should be elective courses because they will be much more successful with students that are actually interested in the language taking the class rather than being full of kids who are only in the class as a requirement to graduate.

Posted by: MeaganCallahan | April 25, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

"You quote Cal Lanier as a high school teacher. What subject does she teach? "

That would be subject(s). Math, history, and English. Thanks for the "she", though. Most people get my gender wrong.

Megan Callahan reiterates my point very nicely, which I'll repeat one more time for the literacy-impaired. Language study should be optional, like music and art, and not required.

Those of you who are posting here for extra credit--your teacher should have made you post your comments in the studied language. But since she didn't, it just goes further to prove my point--language study in high school is about the grade and the check mark on the resume. Hope you all get a good grade!


Posted by: Cal_Lanier | April 26, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse

There are two questions here. One is whether learning another language is the best use of someone's time. For the vast majority of Americans it's not. They'll get more workforce-relevant cognitive development from reading and writing in English, learning computer skills and math. Most people can't fix their computer--shouldn't they learn that before tackling Chinese?

The other question is whether foreign languages are useful as part of a general cognitive development plan--for people who can read and write fluently in English and are getting enough math in their diet. I suspect there are better ways to teach analytical and grammar skills, so that isn't good justification. The content itself isn't that relevant for most people's job so that isn't one either.

Posted by: steve10c | April 26, 2010 1:59 AM | Report abuse

@Steve10x

Why is relevancy for people's job the key issue? If the purpose of schools was to prepare solely for work, shouldn't their costs be put square on the shoulders of future employers? Or is the purpose of schools to prepare kids for life in general, including political education etc. In that case, foreign languages are actually key, because they allow to access foreign media and thus pool a variety of perspectives for a more informed view of the world they live in.

Posted by: OliverH1 | April 26, 2010 4:45 AM | Report abuse

Jay Matthews' link in the above article (It was very difficult.) argues against his premise here. He argues there that learning Chinese was a completely mentally strenuous task that not all can accomplish. Here he says studying foreign language is a waste of learning time. Which is it? Industry is now crying to the public schools that the high stakes criterion-referenced test model supported by NCLB is producing potential employees who can't think or imagine how to do tasks without heavy-handed instruction. If we want students who can solve complex problems then we have to challenge them. If you want further proof of the benefits of Foreign Language instruction on cognitive development then go find it in the educational studies. There is ample evidence there that learning foreign languages has great benefits. (As well as studying those other “wasteful” activities like Art and Music)
And by the way, grade inflation is a problem in all subject areas.

Posted by: mcmanus_john | April 26, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

What nonsense! I studied math in h.s. that I haven't used in over 40 yrs; was that a waste of time? I started French in jr high and then added German as a h.s. senior, majored in German in college and on to grad school. (German had greater appeal because of family.) Over the yrs I've worked in 4 world areas and been to probably 40 countries, an experience that would not have been easy, had it not been for comfort with other languages and cultures. Defense proficiency tests indicate I can use 7 languages to varying degrees of skill, and several of these are languages I never studied (e.g., Dutch, Spanish, Turkish). The experience with French and German led to familiarity with related languages and extended to attempts at unrelated ones. Moreover, as unexpected as it would be, I have used German in disparate parts of the world, from Haiti to E. Africa to Turkey, to accomplish things I could not do with English alone.

Posted by: PolyglotOpa | April 26, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I am shocked that Cal Lanier is a high school teacher who teaches 3 core subjects. How is this possible? Is this at a public school?

Posted by: eagercommunicator | April 26, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I am shocked that Cal Lanier teaches three core subjects in a High School. Is this a public high school where one needs to be highly qualified? Are we basing a whole editorial on a person who is a Jack of all trades, master of none?

Posted by: eagercommunicator | April 26, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Cals isn't really a high school teacher at all. Maybe she is a middle school teacher with all of those subject areas.

Posted by: eagercommunicator | April 26, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Why waste time on a foreign language? Because you never know what subject will light a spark.


Posted by: jlibbey | April 26, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

No wonder the world sees Americans as ignorant. This article proves this statement perfectly. Foreign language is key to helping students realize there is more to the world than the 50 states we live in. It amazes me that in this day and age we are having comments like this made. The world is bigger than the United States there is so much more out there and foreign languages only opens the door to that. I started taking French in sixth grade, and did miserably, now I am a French Minor, and a Spanish speaker, because of my love of language found in High School. During in High School students brains are most impressionable, you dabble and find what you enjoy and are good at. If there is no language requirement in high school then how can students find their love of language.
It doesn't make sense to say that the language requirement is a waste of money, we could say that of many subjects, such as science. Not everyone goes on to become doctors, or study in the science field, but we have it in high school so students can expand their horizon and find that out on their own. Foreign Language does the same exact thing. It is unfortunate for me to see that we as a country cannot grow out of our narrow minded ignorance to the rest of the world.

Posted by: amkehoe89 | April 27, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Re. Cal Lanier:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2009/07/they_messed_with_the_wrong_blo.html

She's controversial, to say the least.

Posted by: ingrid3 | April 27, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I am a Spanish teacher at a community college. I agree with a lot of the other posts here about the problem about FL education in the U.S. is that we start way too late.

I am so fortunate in my job to have lots of great, well-meaning professionals who really have a desire and often a necessity to learn Spanish. The heart-breaking part is that they are working against science. The 30, 35, and 40 year-old brain does not learn languages near as quickly or as well as the 5, 10, or even 15 year-old brain. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are far from the rule.

With required foreign language study at the elementary or at least middle school level, my students would be a lot better off and I could take them even further from where I can now.

If I had had the opportunity to begin my language learning before the age of 14, I would probably be an even better speaker (and perhaps teacher) myself.

Posted by: IAmaestra | April 27, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Here in New York, there is a group called Spanish MeetUp for non-native speakers of Spanish who want to practice the language at social events. I've been to meetings of the group in Bryant Park that have attracted more than 100 people. Participants pay a small fee to sit on benches and talk to each other with the help of a native-speaker facilitator. Between these mass meetings, there are film screenings, museum tours (in Spanish) and bar nights that also attract crowds. The participants are lawyers, bankers, teachers, artists -- you name it. Most started their study of Spanish in high school or college, then honed their skills in Spain or Latin America. Americans are indeed interested in communicating in languages other than English, and the success of this group proves it.

Posted by: busypencil | April 27, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I think that learning a foreign language isn't a waste of time it is acutally very useful. Especially for those who are learning spanish, it is immensely useful, this country has a huge hispanic population and some hispanics don't know how to speak english and that way after you take the class you will be able to help translate or just communicate with a fluent spanish speaking person.

Posted by: kath9mendo | April 28, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Latin teacher, and while my students do in fact flirt (the horror), they are able to do so in Latin and frequently rather impressed with the skills they have picked up. If nothing else, being able to greet someone fluently in a language not your own is an impressive feat.

I might argue that it is neither my job nor my intention to make my students fluent in Latin, just as it was never my math teachers' job to make me a mathematician. The point is to introduce your brain to new ideas and new methods of exercising and using it. The study of another language, if you're going to be as ethnocentric as your article suggests you are, educates you about your own and all of its roots. Studying a language and its structures and comparing them to your own language introduces you to cultural ideas about the speakers of either language.

Fluency really isn't the point. I'm not a mathematician, despite 12 years of math. I'm not a concert violist, despite twelve years of orchestra. I don't write for the newspaper, and I could not work for a chemistry research lab. But I am a more well-rounded person for the experience.

Posted by: atspes753 | April 28, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

One-size doesn't fit all when it comes to education. Not everyone is suited to learn a foreign language, and not everyone needs to speak a foreign language to be successful in life. One's cognitive aptitude for a learning a foreign language is no predictor of their future success in life (as compared to other subjects). There are many many bilingual people living in poverty. There is too much emphasis on foreign language in schools which is largely dictated by college admission requirements. In the 1960's and 1970's, when supply and demand was effective by the baby boomers, colleges needed a way to differentiate between otherwise qualified applicants. They began favoring students who studied a foreign languages because fewer students studied foreign languages at that time.

Now that most colleges require a foreign language, most high school students study a foreign language - cause and effect. If a student has the cognitive aptitude and underlying desire to learn a foreign language, it should be offered as an an elective. However, there should not be a general expectation that everyone needs to study a foreign language to be admissible to, or successful in, college. If colleges stopped requiring foreign language as general condition to admission, you'd see a huge decline in the study of foreign language in high schools. This is because most students are only taking that subject for college admission and not to master another language for use later in life.

Rather than suggest that taking a foreign language is a waste of time (assumedly for everyone) the better proposition might be that the study of a foreign language isn't for everyone or that the study of foreign languages shouldn't be considered as a factor in college admissions.

Posted by: NetObserver | April 28, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Don't generalized about language programs, or about the students who take them: some do well, some do badly, some do in between. As with everything else.

When students don't do well in English or History or Math or Science, we don't decry the time spent on these subjects as "wasted." We conclude that the students or programs are underachieving, and we try to find ways to improve things. Why single out languages for special treatment? Is it just because language study is already a second-class citizen in school curricula?

Classics, and language, prof in Wyoming

Posted by: pholt1 | April 28, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

When was the last time you were actually in a foreign language classroom Mr. Mathews? And on what facts do you base that learning a foreign language is a “waste of time”? If I had not spent that “time” learning a foreign language I would not be in the career I am today. I grew up in a middle class English speaking American family. When I learned the possibilities of speaking another language it was as if a whole new world opened up to me. I had an amazing high school Spanish teacher and she is the reason I became a Spanish teacher. I knew I wanted to be a teacher but it wasn’t until I took Spanish that I knew that was the subject I wanted to devote my life to. I even wish I’d had the opportunity to learn it earlier in school. I do believe that the sooner we expose children to foreign languages the more they will retain and be able to communicate with the world. We need to support our children in all areas of curriculum. I am hopeful that you Mr. Matthews will change your mind about foreign language as a “waste of time”. For it is thinking like that which might be the reason American is lagging behind other countries in education.

Posted by: emily22 | April 28, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I think Jay Matthews missed a major point of the use of studying a foreign language. Learning how to think like others do. This makes us more open to the world, something we Americans need to do more.
Granted, in order to do that, one needs to study language for a long time. That's why teaching languages in elementary school, which is what most of the advanced countries do, is helpful, and so is doing total immersion by studying in another country.
Today's teaching methods emphasize techniques that encourage young people to participate actively in the classroom.
Let's encourage those, instead of encouraging dropping the subjects that enrich students' lives.

Posted by: rcyoung22203yahoocom | April 28, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Simply put, this article has lost the plot. The love of learning Spanish didn't just suddenly arise when I visited Argentina last year. I learned to love the Spanish language and the multitude of cultures it applies to in--er--Middle and High School! Learning a foreign language teaches appreciation of the global world in which we live. It teaches mental discipline. It shows how one reacts when removed from his or her comfort zone and a lot about the character of the person taking it. By the sound of it, this is not an area in which Mr. Mathews showed much character in high school. It also sounds like the anti-foreign-language contingent on this blog learned for their short-term grades and not for life-long benefit. What a short-sighted attitude! Don't wait until the kids become adults and have them saying, "I wish someone would have required me to learn this years ago!" That truly IS a waste of someone's time.

Posted by: Miracle1980 | April 28, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I Could not disagree more with Jay Matthews. LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IS NOT A WASTE OF TIME. Learning a Foreign Language is Extremely advantageous and beneficial. Learning Spanish for example opens a 3rd of the world to the learner. Spanish is the 3rd most spoken language in the world. There are 21 countries that have Spanish as their official language. Learning a Foreign Language is A GREAT ASSET. The problem is that Jay Matthews expects this learning to take place instantly, just like if he were at a Fast-Food Restaurant. Foreign Languages take longer time to learn well. Also, Jay Matthews fails to realize that the way Foreign Languages are taught in the US is not the most conducive to become fluent in the Foreign Language being taught. European countries use different methods and strategies that help students become fluent in the four major skills used to learn any language: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. The methods used in the US may not be the most effective. But this has nothing to do with the High Value of Foreign Languages. Also, Jay Matthews fails to acknowledge that learning a Foreign Language is HARD WORK. It takes a lot harder work than what he described in his article. Spanish is my native language. And I became fluent in English after several years of study, learning, and practice. It did not happened overnight. Even President Obama while he was a candidate said: "Everyone in this country needs to learn Spanish (In addition to English)" So next time that Jay Matthews goes around expressing his disapointments and failures in the learning of Foreign Languages; don't allow him to rob you of developing your God-given potential to learn any Foreign Language You want to the fullest.

Posted by: SROMERO1 | April 28, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

I Could not disagree more with Jay Matthews. LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IS NOT A WASTE OF TIME. Learning a Foreign Language is Extremely advantageous and beneficial. Learning Spanish for example opens a 3rd of the world to the learner. Spanish is the 3rd most spoken language in the world. There are 21 countries that have Spanish as their official language. Learning a Foreign Language is A GREAT ASSET. The problem is that Jay Matthews expects this learning to take place instantly, just like if he were at a Fast-Food Restaurant. Foreign Languages take longer time to learn well. Also, Jay Matthews fails to realize that the way Foreign Languages are taught in the US is not the most conducive to become fluent in the Foreign Language being taught. European countries use different methods and strategies that help students become fluent in the four major skills used to learn any language: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. The methods used in the US may not be the most effective. But this has nothing to do with the High Value of Foreign Languages. Also, Jay Matthews fails to acknowledge that learning a Foreign Language is HARD WORK. It takes a lot harder work than what he described in his article. Spanish is my native language. And I became fluent in English after several years of study, learning, and practice. It did not happen overnight. Even President Obama while he was a candidate said: "Everyone in this country needs to learn Spanish (In addition to English)" So next time that Jay Matthews goes around expressing his disappointments and failures in the learning of Foreign Languages; don't allow him to rob you of developing your God-given potential to learn any Foreign Language You want to the fullest.

Posted by: SROMERO1 | April 28, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

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