Critiquing for positive reinforcement

There are many critics in the U.S. who don’t believe that Americans will ever really dedicate themselves to learning a language. You can read their opinions in various newspapers, magazines, and internet blogs. These critics have described Americans as “parochial” and “dedicated to monolingualism”. They have also accused Americans of being “dumbed down” when it comes to their education.

Well with all of these insults being slung at Americans it’s no wonder they don’t take learning languages seriously. All of these critics have really misunderstood the purpose of language in the American education and social system. I wonder if they ever thought that language would further education, and decrease the “dumbing down” of Americans.

The problem is that critics such as these are the people that encourage language to not become a serious part of American education because of their negativity. They shoot down the idea that the excitement of language can exist longer than an international crisis or economic boom, such as Russian in the Cold War, Arabic after 9/11, and now Mandarin Chinese with the Chinese economic situation.

If we want our children and adults to become more educated, wouldn’t you want to encourage any learning of a foreign language? It doesn’t necessarily matter if it is fad, or an interest, the outcome is still the same- furthering knowledge beyond what was already known. Isn’t that the goal anyway?

Americans are making a small effort to be apart of the international community by learning another language. Sure 44% of Europeans can speak a foreign language, as compared to 9% in the U.S., but Europeans have an advantage of using that language in those countries.

We can blame the American budget for not giving us adequate language programs, or our culture for not being more interested in foreign affairs and languages, or we can simply stop blaming others and encourage those that are making the effort to learn. Isn’t that what we have learned from Capitalism anyway; that you should reinforce good behavior and it will give incentive to do more of it?

Americans are known for their innovation and creativity, if we were encouraged to learn languages we would really expand the power of our culture in the U.S. and abroad. Until then, let’s hope the foreign language critics will grow out of their negativity fad.


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