Date

Fall 2016

Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Victoria Ketz

Abstract

This paper describes why knowledge of a foreign language is important and investigates why Americans are falling behind others around the world in regards to their knowledge of a foreign language. The paper then gives descriptions of different types of foreign language classes in the US, specifically classes that use the “book method” of teaching and classes that use the “immersion method” of teaching. Students from these classes also give feedback about their foreign language learning. The paper concludes with recommendations for how more Americans can more effectively learn a foreign language and how the United States can fix its foreign language deficit.

For this paper, research regarding benefits of learning a foreign language, Americans’ lack of foreign language skills and effective methods for teaching a foreign language was done using scholarly and other reliable sources. To see the difference between the “book method” and the “immersion method” of teaching a foreign language, different classes on La Salle University’s campus were observed. Students from these classes were then surveyed in order to get feedback about how they perceived their classes and progression learning a foreign language. Recommendations at the end of the paper are made based off the research, observations and surveys conducted.

It was discovered that learning a foreign language has many benefits, such as more career opportunities, improved cognitive functions, higher test scores and better understanding of other people and cultures. It was also found that Americans are severely trailing behind Europeans in the way of proficiency in foreign languages, most likely because there is much less stress put on foreign languages in the American educational system. Since this is the case, the United States should change how it teaches foreign languages in schools; this includes teaching students foreign languages at a younger age, employing the immersion method, and using more effective classroom exercises and activities.

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