Monday, April 27, 2009

Spanish Learning Chapter Five

learn to speak spanishWhy should an American learn a foreign language in the 21st century? What and where is the need? If we are not connected in close proximity to our International Neighbors, as are Europeans, then why should Americans learn another language? Why should Americans learn Spanish?

Spanish is the most commonly spoken foreign language by America's largest immigrant group. It is the dominant language of our closest foreign language neighbor-Mexico.

It is the primary language spoken in more than 21 countries.

It is spoken by more than 300,000,000 people.

More than 52,000,000 people will speak Spanish in America by the year 2010.

Los Angeles is the fifth largest Spanish-speaking city in the WORLD.

There are 24 U.S. Banks in Mexico City. Many American companies are conducting business in Spanish-speaking countries.

Cognitive Benefits - Children in foreign language programs have tended to demonstrate greater cognitive development, creativity, and divergent thinking than monolingual children. Several studies show that people who are competent in more than one language outscore those who are speakers of only one language on tests of verbal and nonverbal intelligence (Bruck, Lambert, and Tucker, 1974; Hakuta, 1986; Weatherford, 1986). (A Rationale For Foreign Language Education - A Position Paper of The National Council of State Supervisors of Foreign Languages (NCSSFL)

Academic Benefits - Studies also show that learning another language enhances the academic skills of students by increasing their abilities in reading, writing, and mathematics. A 1994 report on the impact of magnet schools in the Kansas City Public Schools showed that students in the foreign language magnet schools had boosted achievement significantly (Eaton, 1994). It reported that students in the language magnet's first kindergarten, starting in the program in 1988, had surpassed national averages in all subjects by the time they reached fifth grade. And the foreign language students performed especially well in mathematics. Similar studies with students in intensive second language programs show these students scoring as well as or better than their monolingual peers on standardized achievement tests in basic skills. (Ibid)

Societal Benefits - People who communicate in at least two languages are an asset to the communities in which they live and work. Increasing numbers of jobs now require people who are capable of interacting with people who speak languages other than English and can adapt to a wide range of cultural backgrounds. In addition, the ability to communicate in a foreign language contributes to a student's overall achievement of personal and professional career goals. (Ibid)

The main reason I think people who would really like to learn Spanish, but who don't, are those who suffer from Xenoglossophobia. They are just plainly and simply afraid. I think that fear works out in some of the following ways:

They think they will not be able to master the thousands of vocabulary words required for communicating in the language. They are terrified at the thought of having to learn grammar rules. I mean, who wouldn't be? Can you imagine anything more boring? They are afraid they are too old. They are convinced that had they started as children they would have had a fair shot at mastering Spanish.

Here is the BIG ONE: They are scared to death of making fools of themselves.

Not living in as close proximity to another foreign country, as people do in Europe, they do not perceive the need to learn a foreign language.I talk to people all the time who voice these concerns. They are genuine. They would love to live in Mexico and to take advantage of all its benefits of retirement or expatriation, but these five objections loom so largely in their brains that they cannot move past them.

Unbelievably, this Xenoglossophobia is such a real disorder that some people cannot get past it without professional help. Sometimes all the knowledge in the world will not convince someone so afflicted so that they can get past their fears and start to acquire a second language. If you are afflicted with this and yet it is a life goal to master Spanish, get the help you need.


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