The ability to learn more than one language while in school can give a student a competitive advantage in the modern world. Even though technologies that allow for instant translations are quickly improving, translators are still required to provide a meaningful conversation. Creating fluency in a learning environment allows today’s students to become tomorrow’s ambassadors because they can directly communicate with others.
Should the traditional dominant-language learning structure be replaced? Here is a look at the key pros and cons of a bilingual education.
What Are the Pros of a Bilingual Education?
1. It gives students more employment opportunities.
The world is quickly becoming a very small place. People are able to move about over long distances, allowing them to experience new cultures and explore more job opportunities than ever before. By having a bilingual education, today’s students can explore tomorrow’s opportunities in multiple locations and have their dual language fluency be a sought after skill. If a worker can approach prospects in multiple languages, that flexibility allows them to be more productive and potentially make more personal profits as well.
2. It enhances an individual’s learning potential.
Once an individual is able to learn a second language, it becomes easier to learn many other things. More languages become easier to learn. Mathematical concepts become less difficult. It even allows students to become better at multitasking because their minds have been trained from the start to examine multiple possibilities at once and internally shift their focus points.
3. What makes people different is what makes people stronger.
Being able to interact with different cultures allows today’s students to have more learning opportunities. The human existence is more than just what the dominant culture and language has to offer. With this exposure, students actually learn more while experiencing lower levels of anxiety because there is less fear regarding the unknown aspects of a foreign culture.
4. Societies are quickly becoming bilingual.
Immigration has created a melting pot of societies around the world. Many nations may have one official language, but there are many demographics within that society that speak a different language. In the US, you can see this with English and Spanish, but there may also be French, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, and other languages spoken as well. The best way to interact with these groups is to speak their language.
What Are the Cons of a Bilingual Education?
1. A bilingual education is more expensive than a dominant language education.
Public schools are already cutting programs because they can’t afford to provide essential services. Adding a bilingual education to the mix would require more cuts to more classes because of the costs involved. There’s only so much taxpayer money to fund schools and there may not be enough to provide this extra layer of infrastructure.
2. It creates a different type of subculture.
Although being bilingual allows for students to interact with multiple cultures on a personal level, it also tends to prevent them from being fully immersed in that culture. Even though the world is becoming a very small place, most societies are based on a dominant-language structure. Being bilingual makes that student different and if there’s one thing humans don’t embrace well, it is people who are different than they are.
3. Current students may not benefit as much as future students.
Humans learn more information between the ages of 0-5 than at any other time in their lives. Movement skills, language skills, listening skills, feeding skills… the list is enormous. The mind is most adaptable at this period of time, which makes it the perfect opportunity to begin a bilingual education. Pre-K and kindergarten students would potentially benefit the most when this policy is implemented, leaving older students at a potential disadvantage.
4. There would be an even greater teaching shortage.
Many communities are already struggling to find teachers. Districts are scrambling to find qualified teachers and are even willing to rewrite the requirements to be licensed as a teacher in some instances. Adding a bilingual component to the education process would just enhance this issue because there is a lack of fluency in foreign languages for many teachers in the world today.
The pros and cons of a bilingual education show that today’s students could use this knowledge to become influential leaders. Like any other change to the educational process, this benefit does not come without cost. Is it a worthwhile change to make? The answer lies in what key points each community would emphasize as being most important.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.