Yash Khatavkar, Fridley High School TED-Ed Club Member and high school senior, wants to see a change in the way schools approach language instruction. As a child who wanted to learn Spanish, Yash took issue with the fact that his elementary school only offered one hour of Spanish instruction per week. In his final TED-Ed Club presentation, Yash explores the positive benefits of multilingualism, and advocates for earlier and better language instruction in schools.
What was your TED-Ed Club presentation about?
My presentation was about language. I focused on how language acquisition has become more important to us and I talked about how it is taught. The main point I aimed to make is that the way schools teach language is ineffective. The way our schools treat language has not kept up with the changing role of language in society.
How did you get interested in pursuing this subject?
I actually got the idea for my presentation from a friend. He speaks five languages and often talks about the way language is taught in other countries as being more effective than the way it is taught in the United States. My parents are also from India, where people learn to speak three languages fluently: Hindi, Marathi and English. This made me realize that the way languages were taught in the American school system are ineffective and unacceptable.
Why do you think people should learn to speak more than one language?
Knowing multiple languages is increasingly important as the world becomes more and more global. Languages like Spanish are extremely useful due to the large number of Spanish speakers in the United States, but other languages are extremely important as well. Speaking someone else’s native language is not only important for things such as business and trade, but is also critical for more lofty purposes such as international understanding and transcending cultural boundaries. Speaking someone’s native language creates an instant cultural connection with them, and is absolutely essential for functioning in a more international world.
How did you learn to start speaking Spanish?
I actually had toys growing up that taught me some basic Spanish, including a ball that taught me to count to ten in both English and Spanish. Then, in elementary school, I was taught some Spanish in school. But there was only an hour of Spanish instruction per week, which was far from sufficient, and I didn’t learn very much. However, in middle school all the way to high school, I took Spanish classes that taught me much more Spanish. These classes helped me read and write in Spanish well, but I never got the immersion that helped my bilingual classmates (who were raised speaking both English and Spanish) speak fluently.
What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this presentation?
I was most interested by the different ways people learned languages, both in other countries and even within the United States. These are things that I hadn’t been exposed to. By learning this, I realized that language was not something that could be learned in a classroom alone. It truly made me believe that acquiring a new language requires more than just studying it from books.
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