Friday, November 08, 2013

Why a Second Language Is Important

I'm pretty lucky in that I teach English as a second language. Apart from the fact that my students are amazing, interesting, and unpredictable, they generally have an intrinsic motivation. If you want any sort of worthwhile future in the United States, you really have to learn English. If you're an aspiring dishwasher, I suppose you could do without it as long as your boss speaks your language. Otherwise, there just aren't a whole lot of options.

I'm also certified by NY State to teach Spanish, but I've rarely done it. I always think it must be very tough to make English-speaking high school kids want to learn another language, particularly if they're just dumped into the class for no special reason. We are not good language learners, and it's precisely because we live in a huge country and have to travel pretty far to need another language. Europe is different. England, for example, is just about the size of New York State.

So why do you need a second language? My wife and daughter found out the other day. There's a new gym opening up in our town, and they both went in to check out what sort of deals they had. While they were in there, a group of Spanish-speaking people happened to walk in. The staff didn't speak Spanish, so my wife and daughter stayed there for quite a while helping them fill out forms and answering questions.

When the Spanish-speakers finally left, the folks at the gym offered both my wife and daughter jobs, and said if they worked there they could use the gym for free. My 17-year-old daughter, in particular, is thrilled, and agreed to work Monday through Thursday nights. She needs an awful lot of money, apparently.

She was heartbroken when her miserable cur of a father informed her she could work two weeknights maximum. It did not exactly spread cheer through the NYC Educator household. But I'm pretty proud of her, and I think she will do well and learn a lot.
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