“In 1959 when Singapore gained self-rule from Britain, Singapore chose to become an officially multilingual state, selecting four official languages: English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil. English is promoted as the “working language” of Singapore for inter-ethnic communication, while the other official languages are considered “mother tongues” of the major ethnic groups.(1)”
English from that point on was taught in the schools and spoken in office. Having all citizens learn English allowed Singapore to connect with the outside of the world and saved them from isolation. Also keeping the students native languages in the home allowed for the communities to keep their identities. On the other hand here in the United States, English is taught in the schools and if a student had a second language they are not encouraged to further develop it in a classroom and these skills are pushed aside. This is a toxic environment for what would later become a much needed skill.
Countries like Singapore that encourage and develop students to learn a foreign language at an early age also create smarter students. When children are raised in a bilingual household “(it) gives babies the chance to develop skills for coping that will give them the upper hand when it comes to navigating early education(2)”. It is proven that the younger the child learns a second language the more developed and conditioned they are to learning at all things in school. This can even be seen at the High School level here in the United States, students who take a foreign language consistently score higher on the SAT and ACT than students who make the choice of not studying anything but English. Scoring higher on the SAT and ACT contributes greatly to students continuing their studies in higher education.
It is estimated that about half of the world’s population speak at least two different languages. However in the United States only about twenty percent of the population speaks more than one language(3). In other words, eighty percent of the population of the United States can only hold conversation with about 450 million people around the world. This could be doubled by simply teaching foreign language at an earlier age.
America’s role in the world is extremely critical. Many of the countries that work with the United States on a regular basis do not speak English. And in the last 100 years the United States has not gone at war with a country that considers English as its primary national language. It is clear that languages can unite countries and create better trading and foreign policy making. When the United States should and can set the example for being able to communicate with other countries we slack heavily on actually putting in the work to