Imagine working in international business trades with a foreign country while being fluent in the language of the corporation you’re conducting business with. Now imagine that you are completely confident in this language because you’ve been learning it since elementary school.
According to the Pew Research Center, “77% of primary school students in the [European Union] learn English as a foreign language…” Asia isn’t far behind. In the article “Why Asian Countries Are Investing So Heavily In The English Language,” Forbes Magazine states, “Asia ranks second in the world after Europe among non-native English speakers, according to the 7th edition of the EF English Proficiency Index, the world’s largest study that measures adult English proficiency among non-native speakers.” The numbers have steadily increased as countries see profitable gains from this educational addition.
I can already envision the communicative benefits in the business world for high English language proficiency. The ability to communicate in the most commonly spoken language opens Asian and European businessmen up to a wider scope of trade and other ventures. Forbes Magazine indicates that there’s more to it, though. They state, “Besides economic competitiveness, higher English proficiency is also linked to social development and innovation. Countries with higher proficiency tend to have higher average incomes, a better quality of life and greater investment in research and development, according to EF.” Some of these positive effects can be attributed to Asia’s high rates of exchange students.
According to the Student and Exchange Visitor program, 77% of the 1.18 million international students in the country are from Asia. Their students travel to English speaking countries like the U.S., Canada, and the UK to bolster their academic ranking and general knowledge. Upon receiving a rigorous education in the English language, they return to their home countries to work with new knowledge for their communities and economies.
With an increased interest in developing proficiency in other languages, a substantial amount of money is going to teachers and other formats of language learning. Forbes says, “By the end of 2015, the [English-language training and examination] industry was estimated to be generating a revenue of $4.9 billion in China and was projected to grow, on average, at a rate of 12-15% a year, according to the China Ministry of Education’s National Education Development Statistical Bulletin.”
With these productive results in mind, I suggest translating these practices into the U.S. public school systems. I think the beneficial payoffs would far outweigh the issues or negative blowbacks. If the public schools mandated language learning in a language like Spanish starting at the elementary level, students would have a deep understanding of the language by the time they reached middle school. In addition to the economic benefits, this would bring diversity and acceptance into our schools from an early age by teaching them not only about the languages, but also the countries’ cultures. Students would benefit from receiving the chance to peer into another country’s traditions, values, and way of life. In addition to the benefits to students, this process would also make new jobs available to teachers, and developers designing the online content and lesson books.
The hurdles and details involved in creating and initiating such a program would be numerous. The most difficult part would be convincing parents, teachers, and political figures to vote in favor of this issue. Beyond that, getting this program set up would take some time to integrate into the current educational system. When all is said and done, I think this country would benefit profoundly with the application of such a program.