It asked: why French? Why not Japanese, Chinese or Hindi? True, despite the fact that French is spoken on five continents and is the official working language of international organizations such as the United Nations, UNESCO or NATO, it is not at this time the language of one of the emerging markets in the world.
And so what? I thought. Does it really matter? Do I put my child's career and future in jeopardy if I choose today for him to learn French over Chinese? Or the other way around: will my son really have more chances of being successful in his future career if he learns Hindi over Tagalog, Spanish over Quechua? Or will he benefit merely for the fact that he is learning a second language?
It seems that a handful of experts in the fields of Early Language Learning and Teaching of Foreign Languages agree to the latest and concur: learning another language enhances cognitive development and mathematical thinking; increases critical thinking, creativity and flexibility of mind; thus, leading to better academic achievement. I am no expert but I might also add that it develops empathy, open-mindedness and understanding of other cultures.
It seems to me that learning another language – and the earlier the better, will set up a child for academic success, regardless of the chosen language. To paraphrase Martha G. Abbott, Director of Education for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL): “Knowing other languages and understanding other cultures is a 21st Century skill set for American students as they prepare to live and work in a global society.”
I don't want to delve into politics and the finances of the Public School Systems, but it seems to me that any effort such as the one that granted Portland its first French Immersion Public Charter School ought to be recognized and commended.