Bilingual or Monolingual?

Which is better to have in schools?


Leaders of today's educational world are wondering if it's better to have all classes focused on a single language (English) or to create bilingual classes so that students have the ability to converse in two different languages. By opening up students to a new language at a young age, this allows them to understand the language(s) more and to begin developing their cognitive skills early on in life. This opens up many student's minds to other, similar languages and gives them the ability to quickly learn and fully understand the language(s) due to their ability to already speak and fully understand a similar language. However, some claim that it is better to promote only one language (English) in schools. They claim that it advocates a more homogenous culture that all can share and ignores the great ability of speaking with others in their native language that students would gain. Leaders that support these views also claim that bilingual programs are not effective and that students do not fully understand the language even after a couple of years of learning. However, they ignore the fact that no language is learned in only a matter of a couple years. All languages have their own difficulties and will all take patience and time to learn.

Why Write?

I am writing about this controversial subject because when I was young my mom had me take Spanish classes outside of school and even though I didn't like them at the time, I now understand and appreciate her decision of enlisting me in those classes. By making me learn a second language from a young age, this helped me to start quickly comprehending new words and opened me up to other languages. Other languages are now not as hard for me to quickly start comprehending. Granted they are still mostly a mystery, but it is easier to understand Latin roots, French phrases, and Italian words because they are all very similar in structure. If I hadn't started learning as early as I did, Spanish would remain to be mostly a mystery to me. Thankfully though, my mom ignored my protests and I kept learning and now I'm even closer to being bilingual all because I was pushed to learn early on by a wonderfully stubborn woman in my life. In addition, by learning Spanish, this required that I gained an enhanced understanding of English in order to grasp how to correctly structure sentences in Spanish. This in turn improved my English as I continued to learn an entirely new language that neither of my parents spoke which put me at a disadvantage in my learning because they were unable to assist me. This only drove me harder to understand a new language because they were giving me the ability to have more opportunities in my life to further my future than they had. Now that I realize all the new opportunities I have, I am even for grateful for my mother and her foresight to have me learn a new language and have more chances to make a difference in my life.


I believe that having Bilingual classes in schools is essential. These classes would allow students the opportunity to gain the ability to speak in a different language(s) so that they may converse with others in their native tongue and also allow their cognitive skills to develop more efficiently. Besides the analytical standpoint of its benefits, being bilingual opens up doors for people in life. It can open up different job opportunities later in life. For example, a bilingual or multilingual person has a greater potential to obtain a certain job than a monolingual person, because they can speak with more people and come across as more compassionate and understanding due to the fact that they understand the language(s). They also have greater opportunities to earn more money because they can appeal to a wider audience. Being bilingual can also make learning other languages easier because, one understands the structure of language, therefore making it easier to learn similar languages with similar structures. In addition, it can actually help slow the progression of dementia when one reaches old age, due to handling various languages. By constantly speaking and comprehending more than one language, one's brain is more active and by remaining more active, even in old age, combats the dangerous effects of dementia.

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."-Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela hits it on the head. By speaking to someone in their native language you are speaking to who they are and getting to understand them more. Through having bilingual classes in schools, we are giving children more opportunities and tools to create a great future for themselves. We are helping students reach their full potential and are helping them to do and be so much more.

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This shows just how against bilingualism and multilingualism some people are. In this cartoon the man states that perhaps English isn't the language of prosperity due to many people around him speaking Spanish. However, at the bottom the remark, "Or so the liberals would have us believe," shows just how conservative some people are that they think that English is the only language of prosperity and that all other languages are inferior to its superiority. They believe in the advocation of English and the degradation of other languages that are classified as not as important. However, these other languages are needed if we are to continue advancing in today's society because, more nations are becoming closely involved with one another and in order to stay near the top, we need to be able to understand them and show them the decent respect of understanding their language as they do by understanding ours.
This Ted talk reveals that it is crucial to start teaching children another language early on in their lives if they are to become bilingual or even multilingual. After about the age of seven the brain starts becoming completely hard wired for the language that it has been learning, making it harder to accept other languages. This doesn't make it impossible to learn another language after this age but instead, rather difficult. This is because, while we are young we start to differentiate between the sounds that we hear in order to pick out the language that we "know." However, this starts to solidify only the one language in our brains. By creating bilingual programs in schools, we will allow for students to quickly start learning another language before the first starts to becomes to solidified. This will enhance their capabilites of comprehension and allow their cognitive systems to expand to an even greater potential.
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This graph shows that many people in European countries speak more than one language mostly due to them being located so close to one another. This allows them to interact efficiently and become more advanced as they cooperate on certain projects to better their societies. However, in America less than a quarter of it's TOTAL population speaks more than one language. This puts us at a great disadvantage because we cannot effeciently communicate with many of the European countries that we cooperate with as we plan our future and what we want it to look like. This is mainly due to the United States being isolated from many of it's European counterparts; however this is no excuse for our shortcomings that need to be rectified.
This article in the New York Times titled "Why Bilinguals are Smarter" by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee explains how bilingualism helps people multitask, improve their cognitive skills, and the heightened ability to monitor the environment around them and ignore distractions. Through the usage of personification, similes, metaphors, and ethos, he explains how being bilingual has a profound impact on one's cognitive functions and awareness. "It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles." This usage of personification strengthens the author's point that being bilingual expands one's cognitive function as the brain is forced to be able to switch between the languages and correctly comprehend both. Through the usage of metaphors the author creates a comparison of how bilingualism improves the brain's executive function to a command system that directs our efforts of planning, solving problems, and performing a number of mentally demanding tasks towards the completion of a task."The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain's so-called executive function- a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems, and performing various other mentally demanding tasks." In addition, with similies he makes a comparison to the ability of," switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind [to] remembering the sequence of directions while driving." This exemplifies the abilities that bilinguals gain such as increased ability to multitask, which is due to how they have to be able to switch between the languages that they know while continuing to remember them. With ethos the author backs up his statements with insight gained from studies performed to determine the difference between bilinguals and monolinguals. "In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in part of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it." With all of the usage of metaphors, similies, personification, and ethos, the author demonstrates to the reader how being bilingual makes someone more cognitively active and aware with the added bonus of being able to converse with more people and shield themselves from the nasty effects of dementia in old age.
Breaking the language barrier | Tim Doner | TEDxTeen 2014
This video is about a teen named Tim Doner who is commonly known as a polyglot, meaning that he speaks multiple languages. In this video Tim Doner highlights how important it is to understand languages to connect with people on a more personal level and gain a better understanding of their cultures, rather than sensationalize the ability that he has.