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Research Paper

  1. 1. Lara 1Ignacio LaraMrs. MaxwellSenior Project (writing essay)7 November 2011 Obstacles for First-Year Foreign Language Teachers Approximately sixty to seventy-five percent of the world’s population is bilingual(Zelasko). Therefore, bilingualism is an important 21St century skill (“One Language Isn’tEnough”) in most cultures. Then, why is foreign language education having so much troubleattracting and keeping good teachers in the United States? Teaching Spanish in high school isnow a critical needs area in Georgia and in many other states. Why? Teaching in high school ingeneral has become more difficult because students’ personal problems get in the way oflearning; for example, many students come to school depressed, angry, worried or scared. Somestudents even come to school weak and hungry. Other reasons teaching in high school is hardinclude budget cuts and teachers shortages. A foreign language teacher in high school faces acertain set of problems according to Rogers and Hamil: “Many of these common situations thatconfront a first year teacher include large class size, behavior problems, and less than desiredreading and writing abilities”, and points out that technology in the classroom is anotherproblem. These problems must be solved because bilingual is the most important skill in theUnited States’ future as the leader of free world is at stake. (1). One problem a first-year teacher faces is large class sizes. For example, schools arebecoming more crowded and increasingly underfunded (Roger and Hamil 1). Large class sizesare causing new teachers to quit teaching because of the demands and stress that large class sizesproduce for them (Roger and Hamil 1). Teachers with large classes cannot help or attend to allthe students at once when all of them have difficulty with learning a new language and with the
  2. 2. Lara 2subject being taught. For example, with a large class the teacher has to have patience with all thestudents that have questions and because it is a big class it is hard for the teacher to get around toall the students. Teachers will get tired and not feel like helping students after school because ofhow much trouble she has gone through. Furthermore, class sizes are a significant issue forstudents who do not have the ability to learn in a large class. Students don’t bother to askquestions because just they see how many other students have questions for the teacher, so theyjust give up. And s the teacher does not have the time to help every single student. Students arefacing the struggle that they have to learn with just the help of one teacher with a huge class(Roger and Hamil 1). Another problem a first-year teacher in a foreign language classroom faces is the lack ofreading and writing abilities of students. Students are not trying to learn anymore; their capacityfor learning is decreasing more and more. A research study being done in the United Sates hasreported that the reading and writing abilities of students is “relatively insufficient” (Roger andHamil 3). For example, many students when they enter college cannot read a text because theyare deficient readers. The variety of socio-economic backgrounds is one explanation for thesereading and writing problems (Kennedy-Manzo 3). Furthermore, the teachers need to have moredevelopment opportunities to learn strategies to improve the reading and writing abilities ofstruggling students (Kennedy-Manzo 3-4). For example, what a foreign language teacher needsis more resources to help and strategies students understand their lessons. More resources theteachers need for teaching advanced speaking, writing, reading and understanding. Finally, another problem a first-year teacher in a foreign language classroom faces isstudents misbehaving with teachers and other students. Students, “misconduct is not decreasingbut escalating” (Roger and Hamil 4). They don’t obey the teacher when they are told to stop
  3. 3. Lara 3misbehaving with other students. Also, they don’t do their work frequently and prefer to play-around and not do their work. This behavior may cause teachers stress and fatigue fromoverworking with misbehaving students (Sewell 4). Not only is misbehaving a problem, but alsocheating has come more frequent with students. According to McCabe, “cheating has becomemore prevalent in the last ten years”(4). Teachers need ongoing training in how to manage aclassroom and how to motivate students to do their best from cheating. Some foreign language professionals believe up- to-date technology is the greatest needin the classroom. Technology has a great impact in learning a second language for students.Schools need this technology because it will help students to become fluent with it. Research hasshown that language proficiency is a direct function of time spent dealing with the languagehowever the “virtual language lab” was not meant to “replace any of the tools in the past”(Stroud 3). For example, teachers will still use textbooks, workbooks, and audiotapes for practicewith students. The goal of the computer-assisted language learning (CALL) is no different fromthe goal of the foreign language education in general (Stroud 1). The computerized languageinstruction will have the same job as a face-to-face teacher with the learning the subject. On theother hand, most of the schools now have budget cut the schools cannot afford the computerizedlanguage labs to make students improve their speaking and writing. Even more, some studentsare not grateful for these tools; they don’t treat the tools or the computers right. For example,some students’ break headphones, and keyboards, and microphones many students mistreatthem. Also, there is not enough money to equip all classes of the school. Therefore, a foreignlanguage is not all about workbooks and textbooks. Students also have to experience howlearning a language would be with an example speaking a second language by listening to it onthe computer.
  4. 4. Lara 4 These obstacles to learning a second language are not just hurting first-year teachers andtheir students. The United States could be helped by the benefits that would come if morecitizens spoke at least two languages. What are the benefits of learning a second language in theU.S.? Many students in the U.S. don’t know that they could have more opportunities to get goodjobs and other benefits of learning a second language, like higher standardized test scores andadvanced reading and writing skills. One benefit is higher standardized test scores, in “the verbal, reading, and writingsection” (“Learning a Second”). Knowing a second language improves a student’s abilities in“verbal linguistics, general reasoning, forming ideas, and thinking analytically” (Alic). Also,advanced reading and writing skills could help with their jobs. It will help them have a better jobby succeed in life and become proud of themselves. Knowing a second language can “open achild’s mind to-new methods of problem solving” (Marcos). For example, children withbilingual status have a better chance to do better in school because the child will have moreunderstanding of the work. A second benefit is that students will be better prepared for the work force in a globaleconomy. Having bilingual understanding allows workers to use more than one language at workand switch back and forth with customers and co-workers (Zelasko). For example, today thereare more Latinos workers for big enterprises because of the necessity to enlarge their companies.These enterprises are hiring not only just Latinos but those who speak other speaking languagestoo. Ability to speak more than one language increase a person’s competitiveness in the jobmarket “One language isn’t”. For example, a person just knowing one language will not get far ifhe wants to succeed. On the other hand, a multiple language speaker has much better chance tosucceed in his career just because he knowing different languages. Employees with the ability to
  5. 5. Lara 5speak another language can help U.S businesses dominate the world marketplace and stabilizethe economy (Alic). The third benefit for students who are bilingual is that they are better prepared for a rolein a global society. They understand another language and cultures where that language isspoken. Understanding another language also improves understanding of the cultures of thesecond language as well as the first language (Marcos). Many students use language and socialskills with new people from a different culture to improve their personal relationships and onesin business and political pronunciations. Learning a second language gives students a uniqueoutlook on different cultures which helps decrease prejudice and discrimination (Alic). Forexample, U.S citizens who speak another language do not discriminate against people of othercountries because they speak their first language in public areas. In conclusion, the future of students who are learning depends on the educators of asecond language overcoming these obstacles and problems. Schools districts should give supportto a first-year teacher of a foreign language, and take steps to solve large class sizes, behaviorproblems, technology shortage, and weak reading and writing skills. School districts could easilysolve some of these problems. For example, the school could get another teacher or a communityvolunteer to help the teacher in the large classes. That would minimize the problem with largeclasses and misbehavior with other students. Over all, teachers need the support of school systemand the community to overcome these obstacles to teaching to help students succeed in theircareer. All these problems need to be solved for the success of students and the future ofAmerica.