Learning an additional language has many professional, cultural and neurological benefits. However, in Richmond, many students aren’t given the opportunity to study a foreign language until high school.
“Learning a world language is important because it opens up so many doors, both personally and professionally,” Spanish teacher Tess Schieben said. “Learning another language allows you to dive deep into the culture where the language is spoken.”
People have different opinions on when children should start learning a foreign language.
“At an early age, you do not necessarily learn a language; instead, if you start young, you acquire it,” French teacher Derek Worch said. “Think about a French (or any other language) immersion school. Young kids attend the school and they hear, see, and speak the language each day.”
A study from Cornell University shows that younger children can learn a language faster and easier than older people.
“I think the earlier the better,” Schieben said. “Think about how most of us learned English… we were spoken to in English and read to in English at home and that is how we were able to pick up a language as very young children.”
Richmond High School and Hibberd Intermediate School require a foreign language, but the other elementary schools and middle schools in the school district do not.
“I certainly wish that RCS offered world languages to all of our middle schoolers as well as some sort of option at the elementary level,” Schieben said.
Many people believe, however, that you are never too old to learn another language.
“Although older students will find learning a new language more challenging, you are never too old to learn and become curious about a new language,” Worch said.
Learning a second language also has many neurological benefits, including protecting against Alzheimer’s. Recent studies from Michigan State University have shown that bilingual people’s brains function better and for longer after developing the disease. Fortunately, there are so many options available for learning languages.
“It is never too late and you are never too old,” Scheiben said. “Duolingo is the perfect place to start if you are wanting to learn a language as an adult. If you prefer a more traditional setting, IU offers online language courses year around, including summer sessions.”