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Ethan

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Does the future of education lie in bilingualism? Is it even possible?

Hi everyone, I have been pondering for some time as to the role of language in cross-cultural interactions. As a bilingual, I have had the privilege of conversing across cultures to try and understand people from different perspectives. To me, language isn't just a medium of communication; it is a passport that grants people access to cultural knowledge.

I am also keenly aware, however, that imposing mandatory learning of a secondary language on the masses will provoke resistance and discomfort. More importantly, it seems to me that most people speak and think in a master language; that is, the language that they use in daily conversations, and the medium from which they interpret the sciences and the humanities. In that sense, few people can claim to be equally fluent in 2 or more languages.

So it is both uncomfortable and difficult to introduce bilingualism/multilingualism en masse, which leads me to some huge dilemmas:

Should we teach all children 2 languages?

Do you think it would eventually result in some form of cultural erosion as one's original master language is less spoken?

Would we end up in some sort of grey area whereby many children who cannot cope with bilingualism retains no master language at all?

And finally, would a bilingual world be a better place? (Forget world peace, what about cultural diversity??)

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  • Dec 6 2011: There is too much emphasis on competence in a particular second or foreign language, when we would get much more out of the knowledge and skills that allow us to acquire competence in any language. I prefer to see the teaching of the general science of linguistics as a core component of social studies. Morphology, phonology, syntax, pragmatics...its a very rich domain to explore. Our goal should not be to prepare little Jimmy for the civil service exams or for a job at a Denny's in East LA; our goal should be to enrich Jimmy's mind.

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