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Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 24, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Foreign language study

K-12 can handle the job

While the editorial “Globalization demands more foreign-language study” [seattletimes.com, Opinion, March 16] rightly encourages colleges and universities to continue foreign-language curricula preparing students to compete in an increasingly global economy, it incorrectly states that the onus for preparing students for advanced language learning cannot fall on K-12 schools.

A cost-effective system would prepare students to enter college and the work force with at least an intermediate-level language proficiency. The notion that learning English, math and science are enough for young people competing in the global market is simply wrong.

Washington is blessed with some very strong K-12 programs in a variety of Asian and European languages. The challenge is now to provide excellent language education to every child in Washington.

Research conducted by The Language Flagship indicates employers pay a premium for workers with high levels of language proficiency. Workers in agriculture, IT, transportation, engineering and retail can all do their jobs better if they can communicate in another language. Every Washingtonian should have full command of English and at least intermediate skills in another language.

Not investing sufficiently in language education before our children enter college is denying our children opportunities while threatening the ability to compete in the international marketplace.

— Carl Falsgraf, director, Oregon Chinese Flagship Center and Center for Applied Second Language Studies, University of Oregon, Eugene

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