Bilingualism could change your life

By Elise Crosley | Reporter

Most international students attending Baylor arrive knowing how to speak and understand English. Although it may not be their first language, they are still able to partake in the Baylor experience by communicating with new friends and learning from their professors.

According to a national survey, less than one percent of Americans are proficient in the second language they grew up studying in school, even though 93 percent of schools offer language classes. Meanwhile, according to Pew Research Center, Europeans have been studying their first foreign language for years by the age of nine and have started a second one around age 12. Many students in Kenya grow up speaking both Swahili and their tribal language, while investing time and effort into learning English at school as well.

This is a huge problem for Americans when they travel to other countries, as they aren’t able to communicate with most people in their native language. While many foreigners do speak English, there is something to be said for meeting someone where they’re at and getting to know them speaking in their native tongue.

Not only do Americans experience this blockade when traveling, but many have a difficult time communicating with other U.S. citizens who don’t speak English. There have been many cases when English-speaking citizens will get angry with citizens not speaking English because they aren’t using the language they’re used to hearing. Oftentimes, the non-English speaker isn’t even talking to the angered citizen. They are many times simply talking to a family member or friend in the grocery line or at the gas station.

According to the New York Times, a middle-aged man in New York City became frustrated with Spanish-speaking workers at a fast food restaurant, saying to them, “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English. It’s America … I will be following up, and my guess is they’re not documented. So my next call is to [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to have each one of them kicked out of my country.”

This type of attitude toward introducing new languages to American culture is dangerous to the diverse and manifold culture many in this country are proud of.

The United States is becoming more and more diverse as time goes on, so ignoring the fact that bilingual curriculum needs to become more prominent in the country’s education system will only cause American’s to become more incompetent as world citizens of the future.

Apart from bilingualism, promoting easier communication and the celebration of diversity is beneficial in other ways as well. According to researchers at Washington State University, bilingualism causes increased control of attention, better memory and a greater understanding of language structure. It has also been known to promote employment opportunities and earnings.

Making bilingual curriculum more prominent in the United States’ education system and taking language classes more seriously will help non-English speakers and immigrants find community and employment easier. It will show them that people care about getting to know and grow in relationship with them and their culture.

“The Spanish population of the U.S is growing rapidly, and we can’t ignore the fact that there is a growing language barrier between U.S citizens and immigrants,” bilingual Clarksdale, Miss. junior Jonny Caraveo said. “It is unfair to expect all immigrants to learn English, as many lack either the resources or time to do so. However, we as a country are lucky enough to have access to bilingual programs either in high school or college. I know from personal experience that being able to communicate with people in their own language can instantly break down social barriers and lead to a connection. I believe that if more people could connect with others using their own language, we could create unity that transcends borders.”