LETTERS: Surprised by F-M’s proposal to start only Spanish early

The following letter was originally sent to Fayetteville-Manlius Superintendent Corliss Kaiser and the board of education.

To the editor:

As a resident of the Fayetteville-Manlius School District and a foreign language teacher for more than 30 years, I was at first heartened to receive notification from the district that it was going to address the issue of increasing language instruction for our students with the goal of increasing their language proficiency. In our global community, and cognizant of the increased need for cultural understanding today, I feel that nothing could be of higher importance.

However, upon further examination of the proposal, I was surprised to see that plans only included an earlier introduction to languages in one language, Spanish. Now, for the population at large, this may seem like a logical choice, for reason not even mentioned. However, limiting students to exposure of only one language is short sighted.

Consider for example that the second largest French-speaking city in the world is only four and a half hours away. Our community is made up of several distinct ethnic populations (Italian, German, Chines, to cite just a few) whose families prefer to reinforce those languages with their children. And what of Latin, the stalwart basis for our own language?

Statistically, it has been proven that language study has many benefits for our students, including increased performance on standardized tests, academic progress in other subjects, increased basic skills in the first language and improved chances of college acceptance, in addition to enhancing future career opportunities. That said, why limit our students to only one choice?

I would further question the thoroughness of the task force in deciding to implement the suggested language program in seventh grade. Having been a resident of this disrtic for more than 30 years, I remember the seventh grade exploratory program that this is reminiscent of (although that program explored more than one language). To be truly prepared and innovative, our district should have a more thorough “shovel-ready” program that looks to introduce languages at an elementary level where studies have shown that optimum language learning takes place. The earlier students are exposed to a second language, the sooner fluency is achieved.

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