Education

Language Obsessed

By Kevin Bushweller — September 25, 2006 1 min read

I have witnessed a fascinating development in my household recently. My 11-year-old son is obsessed with learning foreign languages. First it was Spanish. Then German. And then he added Chinese.

At the moment, he hasn’t mastered much more than how to count to 10 in Spanish and German. And learning Chinese is still in the pipe-dream phase. But he is motivated. He found a software package he plans to use for Spanish, which he sees as a very practical language because we have a lot of Spanish-speaking people in our community, and some of the kids on his soccer team are bilingual. And recently, on a family trip to Vermont, a girl who had just moved to the U.S. from Germany taught him how to count to 10 in German. He spent the rest of the night counting to 10 in German, over and over. Nearly drove us all crazy.

Why is this important? Well, the honest truth is I have never seen my 11-year-old this motivated to learn anything academic. Of course, this may just be a passing fancy, something that seems cool to him now, but will fizzle out once he sees how difficult it is to learn a language. But maybe not.

Education Week has devoted quite a bit of coverage lately to the nation’s growing interest in the teaching of foreign languages, particularly those languages--such as Arabic and Chinese--that would be useful to know for economic, political, and national security reasons.

But what really fascinates me is students’ motivation to learn languages. I don’t think my son is an anomaly. Other kids seem to have a similar level of motivation to learn languages.

And that raises a question: If they are motivated to learn, why do so many schools around the country (including my school district) wait until middle school before they even start teaching languages? Why not start in elementary school? Why not tap into this motivation to learn sooner?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

7796 - Director of EAL (K-12) - August '21
Dubai, UAE
GEMS Education
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read