Today's younger children are exposed to different languages and they typically learn them faster than adults. However, the benefits of foreign language teaching for primary school students are in question.
Children are highly adaptable, so they are not perturbed by grammar rules and learning a new language is often very easy for them. This is in contrast to adults, who typically need to devote their entire time to learning a new language to achieve mastery within a shortened time frame.
As globalization has led to the greater importance of multilingualism, parents are more interested in the idea of their kids learning more than one language. At present, the best way for parents is to enroll their children in a school that offers foreign language courses; however, most primary schools do not offer these courses yet. With the increase in demand for foreign language learning, though, more schools are considering the idea.
Advantages of Teaching Foreign Language Courses
Given the idea that children learn language faster, foreign language courses should ideally be taught from a young age. Starting early provides children with a greater chance to attain a mastery of other languages as they grow older. Experience has shown that children from non-native-English-speaking countries, who have learned their native language and English at the same time, have developed a proficiency in both languages. Studies have also revealed that children become smarter if they are challenged to learn different languages at a young age.
The foremost issue to consider is the potential for information overload, as primary school students are already learning several subjects—adding a foreign language could make effective learning untenable. Additionally, other skills could be sacrificed if a student's attention is further divided. Some students will excel in language learning, while others learn better in other fields; therefore, it is unfair to require language learning of students who are genuinely uninterested in the subject.
Continuity is currently another issue, as only a few high schools and universities offer foreign language courses. Even if a child has acquired basic language skills at a young age, the opportunity for necessary enhancement might not be available as they grow older.
Aside from the effects upon students, primary schools are also managing concerns. Most primary schools in the United States typically employ only one or two teachers from another country—unless the school is dedicated to students from immigrant families—and these teachers cannot provide full coverage due to timetable clashes. While specifically hiring teachers to teach a foreign language is a possibility, the school might not be able to absorb what is usually a high expense. Furthermore, a translator or a foreign language teaching assistant might also be necessary in bigger classes to ensure that students are not left out.
If a school weighs up the matter and concludes that foreign language courses are necessary for primary school students, then it should introduce the course regardless of the potential problems. Issues can be dealt with at a later stage, once the additional courses are fully implemented.