Friday, January 06, 2006

A Good Idea?

Teaching languages at early ages seems a no-brainer to anyone who’s studied language acquisition. But to US Education Secretary, it’s a completely new notion:

Margaret Spellings, the education secretary, said in an interview that efforts to teach such languages as Chinese and Arabic to children as young as 5 were brand new. "We don't know how to do it. This whole notion is in its infancy. But our hope is this is a start, and we can build on it."

That, perhaps, is evidence that hiring education secretaries with absolutely no educational experience can be problematic. The notion, in fact, is as old as human history, and if I can teach Chinese kids English, someone can certainly teach American kids Chinese.

Nonetheless, the notion of teaching languages like Chinese, Arabic and Farsi to young kids is a good one. Young kids are the very best language learners there are, and our policy of withholding language instruction until high school is blatantly idiotic.
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