Your March 4, 2009, article “Elementary Foreign-Language Instruction on Descent” underscored the economic difficulties facing many school districts throughout the United States. Cutting world-language learning from their budgets is a shortsighted tactic, however, that will harm both students and the American workforce in years ahead.
Learning a new language—whether Spanish, Arabic, or Chinese—opens new doors for students. It also helps them develop learning strategies that can be of benefit in many subjects, including math, science, and other areas important to our country’s economic development. The reduction and elimination of language-learning programs in elementary schools impedes these opportunities for growth.
With unemployment at 8 percent and the job market tightening, language-proficient job seekers have an upper hand. American companies can only benefit from a language-savvy workforce. And regardless of recent economic hardship, globalization is only going to become more important.
Many school districts respond to budget challenges with innovation. The importance of doing more or the same with less funding has moved some to leverage technology as a way to augment their language offerings and avoid shortchanging students. We hope that more school systems will modernize their curricula to keep language-learning programs available.
President and CEO
A version of this article appeared in the April 08, 2009 edition of Education Week as For Language Learning, Look Also to Technology