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Why Don’t Lakota Students Begin Learning Languages Earlier? 

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Currently, Lakota West provides foreign language instruction beginning freshman year through senior year. Our language department is equipped with fantastic teachers, and I have learned much about Spanish, the language I have taken the past four years. However, I can’t help but wonder if I would have been more successful in my classes and been closer to being fluent if I would have started learning earlier in my life. 

 

Kids tend to be more receptive to learning a language earlier, with several studies saying in order to be fluent, it is ideal for a child to start learning by age 10. One of West’s Spanish teachers, Tricia Becker, explained that “The brain is most flexible at the age of 0-3 and languages can be absorbed very easily for most children during these ages.” She does express, however, that it is never too late to learn a language. 

 

West’s language department head, Kelly Gohmann, stated that a lack of resources, such as funds and staff, contributes to why languages are taught solely in high schools. Mrs. Becker explained that while it is a norm for other countries to begin language instruction at a younger age, it is not a priority or a norm for most districts, including our own. 

 

In the nineties, Lakota did provide an eighth grade survey course, where students had the opportunity to take a semester of Latin and Spanish or German and French. This allowed students to gain a greater perspective of what language they may want to take in high school. However, when our levees failed for multiple times, the classes were dropped.  In addition to the survey classes, courses similar to an honors language were offered in the high school, but since the classes were not weighted and issues with enrollment were present, they too faded away.   Many teachers are in favor of bringing the honors courses back, though, as interest is present today among students and would help with targeting different levels of understanding. 

 

Not only does greater language understanding better equip students for high school courses, but it is also a great asset in the workforce. Even in West Chester, Ohio, many people speak Spanish as their first language. A great example of this is with West’s own ESL sector, including 112 students. Mrs. Becker expressed that many adults in the workforce have said they wish they knew how to speak a second language. Some of the many benefits “include increased salary and job opportunities as well as the travel benefits and friendships that can be made when you can communicate with new people.” 

 

Even though we do not receive classes in elementary or middle school, Lakota does provide extensive opportunities. Students can earn college credit or opt out of college courses. Additionally, Spanish, Latin, and French all have AP options and ASL offers a CCP course. All languages have test-out opportunities available as well. At the high school level, Lakota provides excellent opportunities for those who take a language, as well as a fun experience within each course. 

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