7/01/2010

Chinese classes supplanting French classes

Yet another piece of news spells doom for French teaching in North America, making the often-read statement that French is with English the only language spoken on all five continents all the more laughable.
Associated Press - June 19, 2010 5:55 PM ET

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Language instructors say the rapidly growing Chinese economy is causing French language classes to be phased out and replaced with Mandarin Chinese classes in private and public schools.

The wave of Chinese language offerings includes introductory classes in three Memphis city schools starting in the fall. The offerings are in Mandarin, the most widely spoken dialect.

Laurie Stanton is the assistant head for teaching and learning at the private Hutchison School. She says the decision to offer Chinese was based on a supply & demand philosophy that began with research on student interest in languages nationally.

Stanton says the Modern Language Association did a survey in 2006 showing enrollment in French between 1990 and 2006 was down by 43%. Chinese was up 106%.

11 comments:

Mark Doane said...

Speaking practically, almost the entire program of foreign language learning in America's high schools is a waste.

Unfrench Frenchman said...

Why, a waste?

Mark Doane said...

Most Americans will never have an opportunity to use the languages they are supposed to study. If I drive the length of Europe from Spain to the Urals I could easily come across ten different languages. If I drive from Arizona to Maine I will only meet people who speak English, or at least that's all I should encounter.

Second, most high schools here in AZ only require two years of a foreign language although most larger ones offer up to four in major languages. Two years instruction in a language is not enough to become proficient.

Finally, what little passes for foreign language instruction is often used by unassimilated ethnic groups to teach their children the language of their home country. The Spanish program at my HS was loaded with Mexicans. Italian descended groups in NY have worked for years to pressure the College Board to keep the AP Italian exam.

I'd almost be willing to endorse the replacement of all of these foreign language classes with Latin. Right now Latin is available at some public high schools, but is mostly a specialty of the dying Catholic school system. Latin is perfect fit for a government bureaucracy such as the public schools since it has no practical use, is spoken by no living ethnic group and serves little purpose other than status signalling.

Only about ten percent of America's White population is fit for college, and that ten percent can be taught a placeholder language like Latin. The remaining 90% of the population can be taught the core curriculum needed for most general graduates and released to live their lives at 16.

I was on one forum where a member claimed that the lower 90% should be taught English, math and that God hates Islam and Communism and that their followers should be killed.

Unfrench Frenchman said...

There is a lot of truth in your comment, except that Latin is more than a placeholder. It teaches the elite wisdom and common sense, both of which they have lost since Latin has disappeared from most curriculums. It doesn't teach you how to build rockets and computers, but what it does teach you is probably more important than those things in the long run.
My other objection is that we should not give up on converting communists and Islamists. Killing people should be a last resort.
Apart from that, I agree with your ideas wholeheartedly.

Mark Doane said...

My other objection is that we should not give up on converting communists and Islamists. Killing people should be a last resort.

I think Kodos over on thephora.net meant that as a joke, but he could have been serious.

The decline in Latin in our schools is a symptom not a cause of our decline. A similar argument could be made for the return of religious instruction in our schools. And having the children sing songs about our nation's history when they are in elementary school.

Part of the failure of our language programs stems from offering too many languages instead of concentrating on one, and starting young.

I used to post on your blog under the name Ronduck.

Unfrench Frenchman said...

I know you're ronduck, I checked your profile back then. Thank you for your loyalty to this modest venue, I am always glad to read your comments.

Concentrating on one language for the majority may be the right idea for North-America. I, for one, think foreign-language teaching should use a completely different approach. In the Internet era, the World Wide Web now offers levels of exposure to foreign languages that could only be dreamt of in our countries. That is where schools should start IMHO.

As for religious instruction, well, Latin is the liturgical language of the Catholic church – or used to be –, so to say it's religious instruction that made the West strong is correct, but doesn't really invalidate the argument for Latin, because what we should avoid is to cut ourselves off from our traditions and our heritage. I'm for both Latin teaching and religious instruction in high school and University,– if we're talking traditional religious instruction, not the perverted propaganda that has usurped the name since the Second Vatican Council.

Mark Doane said...

not the perverted propaganda that has usurped the name since the Second Vatican Council.

I wouldn't want Catholic dogma taught in our public schools regardless of whether it is pre- or post Vatican II. Religious instruction should begin in the first grade and continue until graduation.

Unfrench, have you considered converting? You could move to the southern US, become a Protestant, buy a small collection of guns and leave the French language, the problems of France and an entire failed culture behind. Or you could move to the city I live in which is heavily Mormon and become one of the followers of Joseph Smith.

Anonymous said...

To Unfrench Frenchman,

I spent a lot of time and effort to learn French. However, you'll be happy to know that I've seen the light and giving up. There's no point to it, it's a dying language and I look forward to its disappearnace (after all, everyone will soon speak English)

Anonymous said...

'It doesn't teach you how to build rockets and computers, but what it does teach you is probably more important than those things in the long run.
My other objection is that we should not give up on converting communists and Islamists. Killing people should be a last resort.'

Wow. Now that's an intelligent comment. Maybe you should reverse to French to gain the conceptual depths that you seem to be lacking.

Unfrench Frenchman said...

"Wow. Now that's an intelligent comment."
Why, thank you.

"Maybe you should reverse to French to gain the conceptual depths that you seem to be lacking."
Why don't you give us a taste of the conceptual depths that you have reached?

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