Bilingual Education: Schools Are Not Keeping Up with the Times


There was a time when life was much simpler and schools focused on bilingual education simply so that students could learn to converse with those of other cultures they would be most likely to interact with. Today that isn’t the case and so schools try to focus on teaching a secondary language that would be most useful in terms of commerce. Which countries will students one day be apt to deal with? Those are the languages now chosen in most countries, but certain nations of the western world have not kept up with the times. Here’s why.

Schools in the UK Teach French – Why?

Beginning with the UK, it is easy to see why learning French is no longer logical when commerce is the focus. France is not their biggest trade partner, nor is France amongst the top 5 by any stretch of the imagination except on imports. Yes, France is one of the world’s leading economies but that is not the country most likely to do business with the UK. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, the largest organisation to visualise global trade data, the UKs largest trade partner based on exports is the United States with Germany coming in at a relatively close second. As for imports, the UK trades most with Germany, China, the Netherlands, the United States and finally France. It would seem more logical to teach German as a mandatory second language since that is the nation’s biggest trade partner based on Germany’s place in both imports and exports.

Why Is Spanish a Required Second Language in the US in Many Districts?

For years and years teachers touted the benefits of learning Spanish in schools across the United States simply because of its proximity to Mexico and many other Spanish speaking nations in Central and South America as well as those in the Caribbean. However, from the perspective of which countries are the largest trade partners of the United States, only Mexico plays an important role. At the moment, the United States’ largest trade partners include Canada, China, Mexico, Japan and Germany. Yes, Spanish is important but it could be argued that Chinese should be the requisite second language being taught in schools, albeit one of the very most difficult to learn to speak, read and write. It might seem more logical to give students a choice which includes Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin) along with German.

Are schools of today letting our children down in terms of preparing them for their future? Being able to converse with neighbours is important but when faced with the reality of a global economy, many believe that alternatives should be offered. Being able to converse intelligently when doing business is a must and yes, there are professional translators out there with extensive knowledge of local idioms. However, wouldn’t it be more suitable to hire a professional well versed in translation and localisation or transcreation to bring communication down to a level even more understandable to trade partners? Unless today’s schools are ready to commit to a broader range of foreign languages, professional translators are needed to fill the gap.


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