Look, I'm an ugly American. I speak one language, and only moderately well at that. Sure, I know a handful of phrases and words in French and Spanish, but saying I have any fluency would be false. To be honest, I am unhappy about that, and plan to start taking some Spanish classes as soon as I retire and relocate. Too old? Well, it may be limited and slow, but dammit I will learn some. Fortunately, Spanish is a fairly easy language for English speakers to learn, I have read. http://i.telegraph.co.uk/...
There are some very good reasons to do so, and I think they need to be discussed.
First, we are an English speaking country in a primarily Spanish speaking hemisphere. For commerce, travel, tourism, and connecting with many of our own citizens, it would be useful, logical, and highly efficient if we were a bilingual people. Spanish classes starting in elementary school would be incredibly useful. More over the orange doodle.
It has been pretty well established that the bilingual and multilingual brain works a bit differently, and arguably better than the monolingual. Finding support for that concept is easy. http://www.brainfacts.org/... is an article that gives some information.
There are many others that cite advantages for adults learning a second language; delayed cognitive loss with age is measurable. I mean, learning anything keeps us sharper, but learning a second language has shown physical effects including increased gray matter density.
But here is, to me another factor. I am honest enough with myself to admit that being surrounded by Spanish speakers can make me a little nervous, since inability to communicate puts you at a disadvantage. It occurs to me, and I'm sure that I am not unique, that some of the fear that comes with the influx of Hispanic immigrants comes from some level of fear of that inability to understand.
"So, Grouch, what was your first hint? All those misspelled signs that this was "Murica, speak English?" Yeah, I'm not unique or original in seeing that, and diagnosing it as what it is, for all bigotry has fear as a founding cause. And I know that it's a hard haul to get the idea of early language education into a school system that is under attack and underfunded. But, geez, isn't it a pretty good idea? Our children would have sharper brains, longer, and be much more mobile culturally and geographically.
So, just a few thoughts. Meanwhile, as I said, I'll be moving in a few months. In spite of my personal failure as a linguist, I'm heading to an area that is de facto bilingual. It's called New Mexico. I really hope I can get at least a little grasp of Spanish, but wouldn't it have been great if I had had more opportunity to learn as a child?