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Is Being Bilingual a Must in Today's Society?

Updated on May 8, 2016
Anna Marie Bowman profile image

Anna wears many hats: writer, mother, crafter... Over the years, she has found what works and what doesn't for herself and her family.

To Be, Or Not To Be Bilingual

Is being bilingual a must in America today? If you ask most employers, or our current President, then the answer is a resounding yes. Obama believes that it is less important for immigrants to learn English than it is for parents to teach their children a second language. That makes little sense to me. What he doesn't come right out and say, is that the second language we should all be teaching our children is Spanish. Of course, we get immigrants for all over the world, so limiting it to Spanish makes little sense.

While I do agree that learning a second language will broaden your children's education, and give them another skill that will greatly aid them in their futures, I do not believe that this language MUST be Spanish. I hope to teach my daughter German, the language of my family heritage. Others may say that it might be more useful to learn Chinese, considering the large amount of debt we owe them. They might be right on that one, but that is something better left for another debate entirely.

Which language is right for you?
Which language is right for you?
Starting to teach a second language early on has benefits.
Starting to teach a second language early on has benefits.

Language In The US

I do feel that it is very important for immigrants of all nationalities, who come to this country, to learn English. A majority of other countries do have an official language. The United States does not. If I were to move to France or Germany, I would have to learn the respective language of that country in order to fit in and survive. People who feel that immigrants should learn English are seen as racist. I don't understand this point of view, because there are immigrants from many countries coming into the United States all the time. How is it seen as racist, when it isn't just one race of people coming into this country? Whether you are Polish, German, Mexican, Chinese, or any other nationality, you should learn the language of the country you choose to live in.

I don't think that calling someone a racist for feeling this way is really a fair, or valid, point. There are immigrants coming into this country from all over Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Is it fair to the Polish immigrants or the Asian immigrants that Spanish should be the language we are teaching our children? I feel that you should be able to teach your children any language that you feel is appropriate.

What Language To Teach?

So, what language, if any, should you decide to teach your child? Sometimes they make that decision for themselves when they get into high school, but studies show that starting at a young age gives children an edge on learning languages. Do what you think is best, after all, you are the parent. The President isn't your child's parent, and neither am I.

If you have French heritage, or family in Germany or Poland, why not teach them one of those languages? If you have family members that speak a language other than English, start teaching them the language spoken in your family. It opens the lines of communication and creates ties to a rich family heritage. Teaching a child a language they have ties to, and that is a part of who they are, makes a lot more sense to me than teaching them Spanish because someone else said you should.

Personally, I am trying to expose my child to as many different cultures and languages as I can. I am using her as a basis for what she will learn. Seeing what she picks up on easiest, and what seems to interest her the most. Recently, she became interested in the Norwegian side of our heritage, and took it upon herself to learn as much as she could about Norway, including a few words and phrases. She has learned several phrases in several different languages, and I know that can only benefit her in the long run.

So, really, don't let anyone tell you what you should be teaching your children. Make that decision for yourself. In the end, you are the one who knows the best as to what is right for you and your children.

© 2008 Anna Marie Bowman


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    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 7 years ago from Florida

      eovery-- I took a foreign language in high school and my IQ is the same now as it was when I was a child. I do not believe that there is actually anything that you can do to increase your IQ, though learning a second language does affect how you learn, and gives you a different way of looking at things.

    • eovery profile image

      eovery 7 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Anna, learning a different language really increases one's I.Q. This is one of the reasons a lot of colleges are asking the students have studied another language while in high school.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 7 years ago from Florida

      jbgnet-- Thank you!

    • jbgnet profile image

      jbgnet 7 years ago

      Interesting viewpoint. Enjoyed your hub!

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 7 years ago from Florida

      maixpress-- I agree that the US has become too obsessed with pleasing our neighbor to the south, especially when it comes to language and immigration issues. You are right. I can't think of one other country that would go out of it's way to accommodate me if I were to move there. I would expect to learn the language of that country. Thank you!!

    • mailxpress profile image

      Michelle Cesare 7 years ago from New York

      Hi Ann Marie,

      I agree with you 100%. It's refreshing to read someone shares my point of view. I don't agree with Spanish being the taught second language in schools. I feel teaching your children their heritage.

      The US is so concerned about pleasing others. Again, I agree with you when you write if we had to live in another country, we would have to learn their language. The country would not go out of their way to accommodate a US citizen.

      Great read, great Hub and absolutely agree with all your points of view.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 9 years ago from Florida

      Sufidreamer--  Yes, the US is rather lazy about teaching second languages.  It was a requirement to graduate high school, and a benefit for college, but only 2 years were required.  It is up to the schools to teach them, and two years of a school based language program doesn't teach much.  My daughter has already learned a little Spanish (sadly, mostly from Dora the Explorer, but a little from me), some ASL, and once I figure out how to teach her German when I don't speak it fluently, she will learn that, too. I don't know any Greek, but I imagine it is rather difficult to learn.

    • Sufidreamer profile image

      Sufidreamer 9 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Good Hub - the UK, and I assume the US, is lazy at teaching second languages. In Greece, kids start learning English at a very young age, so I admire your forward thinking with your daughter.

      I wish that somebody had taught me Greek at a young age - it is bloody difficult :(

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 9 years ago from Florida

      Hmmm...I don't remember much of the German that I did learn. It's sad. I used to know more, but haven't used it in so long.

    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 9 years ago

      Yes, Anna. Those are the important ones. And I guess I didn't learn them from the Taco Bell menu, although the time they refused to serve me because my friends and I drove through the drive through in reverse, they accused me of drinking too much of it. Now really, if we'd have had too much, would we have made it through there backwards? Some people can't even make it through forwards!

      I know absolutely no German. What's an interesting word that I might find a need for someday?

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 9 years ago from Florida

      FP-- I agree that a second language should be a matter of choice, but that in order to communicate effectively, across an entire country, a common language is necessary.

      LM-- Yeah, I'm way behind, too. I know a little Spanish, and some ASL. I picked a few things in ASL up when I worked childcare, we used it as a communication tool with the older infants and 1-yr old groups. I don't remember much Spanish, except the important things, cervesa, tequila, how to ask for a bathroom.

    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 9 years ago

      Trilingual, Shalini?!?! I'm way behind, then.

      Anna, I've always heard that children under the age of 12 can very easily pick up new languages. I used Sign Language with my children from birth, and at just a few months old, they were each able to communicate with me by telling me what they wanted or needed.

      Unfortunatly, English and ASL are the only two languages I know unless you count being able to read the menu at Taco Bell fluency. :-)

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 9 years ago

      I hear you AMB. In India there are some factions that are now looking askance at English - they want the native languages to take precedence, but in a country as diverse as ours we need a common language to communicate across its length and breadth. Forcing people to learn any one language is not right - it should be a matter of choice.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 9 years ago from Florida

      FP & Shalini-- The US is incredibly culturally diverse, and a large number of people speak more than one language. It has become more of a struggle as of late, with a large influx of legal and illegal immigrants from Spanish speaking countries, that choose to not learn English. I think, in a lot of ways, India is far more advanced than we are. Decades ago, when people immigrated to the US, my families included, it was required that you learn English, not by law, but by means of survival. Knowledge of their native tongue fell aside as the generations passed.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 9 years ago from India

      I followed FP to reiterate that point - all of us have to be trilingual at the very least - most of us speak, read and write more than three languages. I can manage 6 - three fairly well and three functional :)

      Thanks for a great hub AMB!

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 9 years ago

      Interesting point. Most Indians are multilingual, it's as natural to us as breathing, so it's a little difficult to understand the dilemma about learning another language. I would think the US is now almost as culturally diverse as we are!

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 9 years ago from Florida

      bernie1936-- Thank you for the interesting perspective from someone who's first language is not English. So many people assume that you are racist, or discriminating if you want English as an official language. Thank you for sharing a different perspective. I agree with you. If I were to move to France, I would learn French, in order to fit in, to understand and be understood. I would not expect everyone to learn English just to accomodate me.

    • profile image

      bernie1936 9 years ago

      OOOOOOOPS - I clicked Previous comment twice. Sorry!

    • profile image

      bernie1936 9 years ago

      Very interesting hub.

      I was raised in Eastern France in the province of Alsace. I was raised speaking French and German. Under French occupation, we spoke French and under the Nazi occupation we spoke German (a must) I worked for the French Government in law enforcement and was stationed in Germany. I was an interpreter and translator. In 1963, I came to America with my German wife and a one year old baby to start all over again. So now what? We could not speak English. A college education did very little for me, so I survived doing a few odd jobs. Since English is an Anglo-Saxon language it was pretty easy to learn it. I did not go to any schools. My teachers were western movies on television, believe it or not. I have an excellent photographic memory and had no problems to learn the spelling of words.

      My dream for my little girl was that she would some day speak 4 languages: French, German, English and Spanish. Guess what? None of it happened. After the age of 7, 8, she was no longer interested in communicating in French or German. She remembers some words but that is all. She is now 47 and regrets what she did.

      Every immigrant must learn and speak English. English should be made the official language of America.

      I can read Spanish but do not speak it. It is a Latin language comparable to French.

      I spend time reading foreign newspapers. That is probably the only advantage I have. The knowledge of foreign languages is really not necessary in America, but is an asset if you travel to other countries.

      So there you have it, for what it's worth.

      Have a nice day - Einen schoenen Tag - Une bonne journee.



    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 9 years ago from Florida

      Thank you! I do not generally approve comments that are promoting other sites, but others may find the information helpful.

    • profile image

      HowToSpeakFrench 9 years ago

      Very good hubpage - I really liked your take on why learning to speak other languages is important. If you have a chance you might want to check my blog at on how to speak French.


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