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Do you think that our children will be left behind economically if they do not learn Chinese?

I am trying to find out if language skills have become a lost art. Do we even care about learning languages. If we don't care, our kids won't care. Does it even mattter?

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    Mar 8 2011: For me the question should include a consideration of whether we should learn a group of languages (there is no one Chinese language and Mandarin and Cantonese are just two) that are spoken by a huge portion of the world's population. How much do we lose in not understanding their language?
  • Mar 8 2011: OK, I like the direction you all are taking me. Language learning as a path to cultural empathy and understanding. (Even if the learner does not master the new language.) Even my question lacked cultural understanding since I did not specify which Chinese language.

    So how do we make the case that "economically" we have to improve US bilingual education from K-12 all the way through adulthood and in business? Policy makers and business only care about the bottom line. How do I make this a bottom line issue?
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    Mar 8 2011: I will write of language in general to set a little foundation for discussion and comment based on personal experience.

    I believe language is essential, especially in its diversity. The existence of multiple languages provides different structures of thought which I believe are essential for progress and problem resolution. I grew up seamlessly with 2 languages and have found that when I can't toggle a problem re-framing it in another language usually helps me look at it from a different perspective, providing more tools for resolving the problem.

    I feel that language skills have become a lost art in English speaking countries, primarily because it has become such a dominant language in commerce and other fields. Living in Cancun, a tourist rich environment, I can see the cultural difference between tourists from English speaking countries and other countries. I notice a higher level of common sense as well as a much stronger integration, acceptance, and cultural grasp of Mexico from visitors of non-english speaking countries. I would like to state clearly that I am generalizing and mean no offense to any culture.

    Conclusion: Language diversity is essential. Linguistic diversity in our children is a treasured gift that should not be discarded. Specifically for Chinese, it is what almost 1/5 of the worlds population speaks, and with the country opening up will be a vital skill. I firmly believe everyone should know at least 2 languages though more is entirely optional. And it is upr to parents to care since it is much easier to learn at a young age and it becomes part of our though process.
  • Mar 8 2011: Left behind economically? Don't think so. But we need to offer more language classes in lower grade levels in all schools & make them part of curriculum to pass to next grade level.