Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Washington DC will try some more bilingual elementary education; why this is a good idea everywhere

Should elementary school students be immersed in dual-language (English and Spanish) elementary education?  Here is a story about such a program in a low-income area in Washington DC that is not primarily Hispanic, in the Washington Post, by Perry Stein, March 7

We did have some Spanish in third grade when I was in it in 1952 in Arlington VA.  But it takes a lot to become fluent enough that you can understand it when it is spoken (can follow a movie in the idiomatic language without subtitles).  It’s easier to learn this the younger you start.

Despite the right wing, this kind of immersion would probably help with cross-cultural understanding among future generations.

In Europe, everyone learns English, which is difficult to spell, and which is very analytic compared to most other major western languages.  The grammar is simple, but there are many uses of separate words to express auxiliary function accomplished by conjugation (or various forms of endings) in other languages.  It is sometimes easier to ascribe precise meaning in other languages because of stricter grammatical “agreement” rules on endings.  Here’s a table on the relative difficulty of many languages.  I think German is actually easier than French and Spanish (the base words are so similar to English, but word order can be different).  German is the easiest language for me to follow in a movie without subtitles.   Dutch is so close to English as to look like a remote dialect.  Norwegian, Swedish, and Afrikaans are said to be easy.
Mark Zuckerberg has taught himself Chinese.

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