Americans should learn a second language – or more

In your Aug. 16 editorial, "Go to college, see the world," you pointed out the importance of students going abroad. This is necessary for them if they wish to educate themselves about the world and improve America's image abroad. But going abroad to study is the last step in a process that I believe must begin at home.

When I read the Monitor, whether it's the question of immigration or the progress in Iraq, one word keeps surfacing: language. After three years of the US military in Iraq, I would have thought that most of the American troops would have a fairly good grasp of the local language: Arabic or Kurdish. Learning the local language is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most efficient ways to make friends in a foreign country, and there is no place where the US needs friends more than in Iraq.

In Sweden, every child learns English in school starting at the age of 9 or earlier. When we begin junior high school, we have the option of studying a second language; I chose French. In senior high we once again have the option of studying a new language.

Since Americans know English, they should be able to master more of the international languages, not having a minor language like Swedish as their first language. If, for example, every American child would start learning Spanish at 9, the whole American continent would be open to them, and Hispanic immigrants would be an even greater boon to American society and social life. Instead, Americans seem to have an almost paranoid fear of learning foreign languages. I believe that the best way to boost the image of Americans abroad and to combat terrorism is to put more energy into language education.

Americans are sometimes called arrogant, but in most cases this is, of course, not true. But, when it comes to Americans' view of languages and the mentality that the study of foreign languages is pointless since they already speak the world's international language, it may well be true. Unless, of course, Americans decide to do something about it.
Gunnar B. Hansen
Malmö, Sweden

There are several solutions to bullying

Thank you very much for the Aug. 17 article, " 'Social norms' strategy aims to tame bullying." While it is impressive that bullying can be reduced via social norms by 8 to 10 percent, I am writing about a school in inner-city Tucson, Ariz., that has had no reported cases of bullying for the past six years using a method called the Nurtured Heart Approach. The premise of the method is to go beyond normal praise to purposely create a level of consistent verbal recognition that leads children to feel great about who they are. Children, who begin to feel great about themselves, manifest that in much higher test scores and greater levels of school citizenship and participation. Special Education services have dropped in this period from 15 percent to less than 2 percent, and teacher attrition, which was previously horrible, is now down to none in the past few years.
Howard Glasser
Tucson, Ariz.

Regarding the Aug. 17 article on bullying reductions: While I agree that it's important to educate kids on why it's not OK to be a bully, I think perhaps it's equally important to teach parents, educators, and school administrators just how serious bullying can be for a child. Too many adults dismiss childhood bullying with a "right of passage" attitude. However unintentional, this cavalier attitude could lead children being bullied to take matters into their own hands. At worst, they could end up taking their own life or the lives of those they feel are responsible for their pain.
James McDonnell
Somerville, Mass.

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