I was educated in the very rural Fayette County school system in the 1970s.
The entire county had one high school, and it was a school of around 800 students. While it was a rural system, someone at the Fayette County Board of Education had the foresight to recognize the need for foreign language skills.
At Fayetteville Elementary School, we were fortunate to have Spanish as one of our classes. I took Spanish in elementary school, junior high school, high school and in college as well.
Numerous studies have cited the benefits of learning a foreign language throughout life. The obvious benefit is to be able to communicate with more people from different backgrounds. Studies in neuroscience have documented the benefits of brain development in those children who learn a second language. And, in the later years of life, those who have spoken more than one language in their lives have better odds and outcomes with the onset of dementia.
My skills in speaking and understanding Spanish have enabled me to communicate with a broad array of non-English speaking people in many facets of life. I once helped with the funeral service of a construction worker as a result of my being able to say the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish. I regularly converse with a number of first and second generation U.S. citizens who are trying to learn English and who contribute to our society.
The additional language skills certainly do not have to be limited to Spanish. There are great opportunities in life for those who can speak Chinese, Japanese, French and other languages.
I was disappointed to learn recently that there are very few opportunities for Coweta School System students to learn a foreign language. This is particularly true at the elementary school level, where young students adapt well to acquiring language skills.
I strongly encourage our Coweta County Board of Education to place priorities for foreign language classes throughout the learning years of our students. The students will be the big winners here, in college preparation, job opportunities, and overall life skills.
Gary L. Teal