“I want my students to have a sweet, sweet memory of taking Chinese,” … said [Zheng Yue, a 27-year-old woman from China who is teaching her native language to students in Lawton, Oklahoma]. “They won’t remember a lot of words, but I want them to remember the beauty of the language and the culture.”I guess if your goal is to enhance China's soft power, that's a win, but it sounds like a fail as far as language learning goes.
And she's not the only one to question the benefits to be had by teaching languages in high school.
Here are some excerpts from a Washington Post article by Jay Matthews entitled "Why waste time on a foreign language?":
A high school teacher said that “language study is complete nonsense for most people. I’d wager close to 80 percent of kids taking foreign languages in high school do so because they have to.” … There is little evidence that many students achieve much fluency in high school. … [The] difficult[ly in learning a foreign language is] another reason why high school language students don’t get very far. …In my experience, students achieve virtually no fluency at all in high school. However, I disagree with the potential implication that languages shouldn't be taught. That's like saying that, because you're not getting enough pay, you shouldn't work.
We tell our children that their Spanish or Russian or Arabic or Japanese studies are important. But we give them high grades for little progress. Most colleges don’t require that applicants have more than two years. And from what I can see, based on what actually happens in high schools, learning a foreign language often is a waste of time.
The real problem is with the method. Learning something complex like a language doesn't have to feel difficult, but the methods used in schools make it pretty painful to learn. High schools might want to see what they can do to imitate Drake University's program to make language-learning more attractive, or perhaps explore any of the numerous language-learning resources now available on the web, which include music, games, etc., and any number of other things that are much more attractive than crusty old textbooks.