Bilingual is Better

Photo courtesy: Global Language Project - At the Harlem YMCA

Although we know it’s never too late to learn a new language, we are firm believers that the earlier you start, the better it is. Did you know that for the most part U.S. students begin studying a second language at age 14? Meanwhile the majority of the top 25 industrialized nations begin the study of world languages in grades K-5. It’s not surprising then that 80% of students in Europe speak at least two languages while only 14% of U.S. students consider themselves bilingual.

In an effort to change these statistics, a woman by the name of Angela Jackson, who has a passion for languages and has been traveling the world since she was in college, founded Global Language Project a nonprofit organization in New York City which aims to teach under-served elementary public school students a second language in free after-school programs so they can expand their horizons and have a better future.

“We are a monolingual society, and part of it is…a majority of Americans feel: ‘We speak English, and everyone else speaks English’ so they have an expectation that other people will speak English or that they will learn it which is a little close-minded, unfortunately, because there’s a large world out there,” said Jackson whose background is in the corporate-management world. “I think that in 10 years if you’re not bilingual, you’re not going to be as employable.

The program was launched last September in Harlem at P.S. 368 Hamilton Heights School, offering two groups of 15 third-graders the opportunity to learn either Chinese Mandarin or Spanish.

“The majority of students are the product of public education and I feel like languages should be offered just like math, science, reading, etc,” said Jackson, GLP’s executive director.

The children participate in the program three times a week for 90 minutes after school. They follow the same curriculum they do during their regular school day, but in Spanish or Mandarin. The main idea it to keep it fun while making sure they become bi-literate—a most important foundation of mastering a language and one we fully advocate at SpanglishBaby.

“If people have the means for private schools, great, but this should be part of everyone’s education. It shouldn’t be just because your parents can pay for a Saturday school, this is as important as math and science in terms of a full and complete 21st Century education.”

We couldn’t agree more. Learning a second language shouldn’t be a privilege. I can certainly say that I’ve seen first hand how being bilingual, bi-literate and bicultural has enriched my life not only professionally but also at the personal level allowing me to better relate to other people.

I have mentioned in the past that I’d love for my children to attend a dual language school. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of options. The few that exist are either way too far away or too expensive—and I’m sure that’s the case for many of you too. A program like Global Language Project would be an amazing option for many of us in the same situation. That’s why I was thrilled to find out Jackson’s plans for the not-too-distant future include is to share with schools and parents around the country a step-by-step of how they can start an after-school program!

“We want to show them that there is a cost-effective way of offering languages at the elementary school level,” she explained. “There’s a lot of resources out there that we’d like to share with them. It’s such an important issue and parents have a lot of power, the power to go to their elementary schools, the power to talk to their principals to let them know that this is important.”

I promise to bring you more information once it’s available and I can assure you that I’ll be jumping in on the opportunity to start something like this in my community.

In the meantime, the current language learning project has been so successful over at P.S. 368 in Harlem that they’ve already been asked to expand it and just recently they launched a new program through the Harlem YMCA.

SpanglishBaby supports any and all organizations que están poniendo su granito de arena into raising more bilingual and bicultural children for we believe this will not only make them better able to succeed in this globalized society, but it will also create more understanding among us all. Therefore, we’re asking you to help GLP by voting for them once a day during the month of April so they can receive a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project—which is giving millions to fund the kind of ideas that will have a positive impact and help change our communities—to continue expanding their program helping underprivileged students succeed.

Click below to vote. It’s as simple as that! Gracias!!

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