Why World Languages Learning Is So Essential to 21st Century Education

By Glenda De Hoyos, Spanish Teacher

We are educating students to develop skills that can help them work in future professions that might not even exist right now. The world is rapidly changing and the needs of a globalized society are difficult to predict with certainty. However, with total conviction we know that our students will need some important skills in the future.

To start the list: thinking creatively to solve problems, being flexible and adapting to changes, collaborating and communicating effectively with others, and having technology proficiency. Further, empathy, compassion, and open-mindedness are important capabilities that can be developed and that grow through academic and social experiences. Other skills that are also important to add to that list include the ability to be resilient and recover quickly and positively from the many challenges that are faced every day.

The Langley School - World Language

At The Langley School, we have a comprehensive curriculum that integrates the many areas that will lead students to develop those skills and many others. I’m so proud to be working in a school that understands the importance of learning a world language from a very young age, and how learning languages is a key element in the development of all the previously mentioned skills, among some others. Our students are given the opportunity through our World Languages Department to learn Spanish from Primary School, and later on, given the choice to learn French or Chinese. This program gives our students an incredible chance to be bilingual and, in many cases, multilingual. This solid foundation can be continued in their future studies in high school and college, opening doors to studies abroad and exchange programs and boosting their careers no matter the area.

As Dr. Scully mentioned in her recent “State of the School” address, the World Languages Department has spent the past academic year reflecting, researching, and planning ways to strengthen our program for our students. For the latter part of this year and into next, the department has begun redesigning its curriculum to be more meaningful and relevant to student learning through the use of a variety of new resources. In addition, the department has aligned new courses to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) “Can-Do” statements, which help define higher proficiency levels for our students. And our program encourages teachers to speak in the target language for approximately 90 percent of the class time.

The ACTFL provides research studies that support the benefits of language learning in three major areas: academic achievement, cognitive development and abilities, and a positive effect in the attitudes and beliefs about language learning and about other cultures.

Research proves that language learning correlates with higher academic achievements, positive impact on reading abilities, increments in linguistic awareness, and higher scores on standardized tests like the SAT and the ACT, among many others. There is also evidence that cognitive skills, like memory, attention, motor, verbal, and spatial abilities, are impacted positively by learning more than one language. The global awareness provided by the cultural integration of the world language curriculum provides the space to develop empathy and a positive attitude toward others. Interesting articles and research publications that support these statements can be found on the ACTFL website.

Without any doubt, learning foreign languages and discovering the similarities and differences among other cultures has countless benefits in the academic and social-emotional development of all our students. When you combine the strong academic foundation in language arts, STEAM, fine arts, and world languages with a carefully organized social-emotional base, you have the opportunity to enhance and multiply the learning foundation of our students. That is what our students live at The Langley School. I feel very proud to have joined this outstanding learning community as well as to be part of a highly qualified group of world language teachers.
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