Push language choice?

posted Jul 6, 2011, 12:53 PM by Essia Bernstein   [ updated Jan 7, 2012, 7:50 PM ]
Push language choice? Nyet, nein, non, nope! By By Karen Ann Cullotta
Special to Tribune Newspapers, March 17th, 2011

For parents determined to convince their middle school student to study a particular foreign language, linguistics expert Nancy Rhodes offers a bit of advice: First, be grateful your child's middle school even offers a foreign language program.
Then back off and let your child decide.
"Frankly, it doesn't matter what foreign language a child selects, because once they go through the learning process, it makes it much easier to learn a second, third or even a fourth language," said Rhodes, director of foreign language education at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Applied Linguistics.
"Of course, you want your child to feel a connection to the language they are learning, and there is nothing better than having a fantastic teacher," Rhodes said.
Middle-school students who can still select among myriad languages, such as Spanish, German, French and Mandarin, are the exception these days, as many cash-strapped school districts across the U.S. scale back or eliminate foreign-language programs, Rhodes said.
"If the middle school in your neighborhood is still offering a choice of foreign languages, your child is very fortunate," said Patti Kinney, associate director of middle-level services at the Reston, Va.-based National Association of Secondary School Principals.
"What you really have to understand as a parent is, if there is going to be a battle over the language your child wants to study, you are not going to get anywhere," Kinney said.
"Your kids are not necessarily thinking about what foreign language is going to benefit them in the future. They are living in the here and now."
Kinney suggests that parents sit down with their middle-school student and talk about the foreign language decision. Discuss the pros and cons of the options and ask some basic questions, such as: Is one of the foreign languages offered reflective of the family's heritage? Is the student leaning toward German because she has heard the teacher is fun? Is he selecting Spanish only because his friends are signing up?
There's no right or wrong reason; the conversation should simply be geared to helping your child clarify her reasons.
"For adolescents, middle school is a time of exploration, when they are experiencing so many changes — emotionally, physically and cognitively," Kinney said. "There is such a wide spectrum at that age, with some middle-school students being very focused on their future, and others just kind of going, 'huh?'"
Above all, Kinney reassures parents who fear that unless their child becomes fluent in Mandarin or Spanish, they will be unable to compete for jobs in a global economy.
She reminds them that a student can always decide to study a second or third language in high school and college.
"You have to ask yourself, is it really worthwhile and in your child's best interest to be fighting over what language they study in middle school?" Kinney said.

Source: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-17/lifestyle/sc-fam-0315-education-foreign-languag20110315_1_foreign-language-middle-language-program