The Business Need for a Bilingual Education
By Missi Smith
The proliferation of technology has brought our world closer together ensuring that globalization is here to stay. For businesses, this now means in order to be internationally successful, they have to be multilingual. Despite this new economy where speaking multiple languages is an advantage, the United States is doing a poor job of prioritizing and achieving bilingualism within the educational system.
American Bilingualism by the Numbers
The United States has no officially designated language. However, day-to-day life, business dealings, education, and almost every activity within the country is primarily conducted in English. According to a recently published report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of the roughly 300 million people in the United States, only 60 million speak a language other than English. This means that not only is a majority of the U.S. monolingual, but also that children are not learning languages other than English in school as students used to in the past.
Seal of Approval
It’s no secret that English is the lingua franca all over the world; but as American, English-speaking children grow into adults, without even a moderately skilled grasp of a second language, they’re going to find navigating the globalized economy increasingly difficult regardless of their job or achieved level of education. That’s why the state of California implemented Assembly Bill 815, thereby creating the Seal of Biliteracy. The initiative provides certification to K-12 schools across the United States that are not only able to meet the need of offering foreign language classes but also prove that students emerge from these programs at a level of proficient or above. So far, 22 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Seal of Biliteracy.
One World, Multiple Languages
Beyond the often touted benefits of bilingualism, employers find bilingual skills in prospective employees especially useful. Such skills give applicants a competitive edge in their respective industry. Employers know a bilingual employee can help garner favor with prospective and existing clients in other countries as well as providing an element of diversity within the organization.
Preparing for the Future
In the state of Wisconsin, the Department of Education fully understands the need for robust foreign language programs. The state has not only implemented the Seal of Biliteracy, but also its own brand of certification. The Global Education Achievement Certificate provides students with a chance to participate in a globally focused course of study. Once completed, the program offers an endorsement that they are aware of how the world is interconnected on a global scale.
Being able to meet this demand in the educational system will leave students better prepared to enter an increasingly competitive workforce as they complete their secondary education whether or not they decide to head off to higher education. Taking this approach, primary and secondary institutions are ensuring that the American workforce stays culturally competent, globally competitive, and innovative for generations to come.