Chinese or Spanish: What Do You Think?
From the column:
Chinese is still far less common in schools or universities than Spanish or French, but it is surging and has the "cool factor" behind it — so public and private schools alike are hastening to add Chinese to the curriculum.
In New York City alone, about 80 schools offer Chinese, with some programs beginning in kindergarten. And let's be frank: If your child hasn't started Mandarin classes by third grade, he or she will never amount to anything.
Just kidding. In fact, I think the rush to Chinese is missing something closer to home: The paramount importance for our children of learning Spanish.He points out that we have many more Spanish speakers in this country and, increasingly, more economic ties to Latin and South America.
He sums it up this way (which mirror comments from the Seattle Times readers):
In effect, Chinese is typically a career. Spanish is a practical add-on to your daily life, meshing with whatever career you choose.
I would agree. China is the big power that will only get bigger in the next decade. But practically speaking, you'd be more likely to use Spanish in this country. I think learning any language is a good idea to be a better educated person AND to learn more about the world in general.
One Seattle Times' commenter had the tired old line about people in this country not learning English. That may be true for some immigrants but only for a very small percent of the population. It is just not plausible to be successful in this country and not learn to speak English. It's true that when you move to most countries, they are not going to necessarily speak English to you. (Nor can you expect your child to get bilingual education in their schools.) But English is the lingua franca of the world so yes, if you go visit many countries, you'll find people who speak English.
Anyone know the percentage of Americans who learn another language (versus learning it at home from relatives) versus citizens of other countries who learn a language?