America Has a New Language

kentuckyBored with your Spanish lessons? Kentucky’s Senate Bill 16 passed with a 10-1  vote at the Education Committee and will be bringing a new option to classrooms statewide. The new legislation will allow students to study computer programming to meet their foreign language requirements. With similar bills being supported nationwide, it looks like America has a new language entering the classroom.

Republican Senator David Givens sponsored the bill because he believes that it will enable children to compete for well-paid jobs in the ever-expanding IT sector. Givens cites the estimated one million programming jobs that are expected to be available by 2020.

Students in Kentucky are currently required to earn 22 credits to receive a high school diploma. To meet those requirements, they must have 15 math, science, English and social studies credits. Given the few other remaining courses available for students, supporters believe that allowing computer programming to be considered a language will help kids prepare for jobs. Students planning to attend a university or college need to have at least two foreign language credits.

Givens notes that only 2.4 percent of college students are currently graduating with a computer science degree. Despite the increasing number of jobs available, he says that fewer students are prepared to take on those jobs.

America Language
Senate Bill 16 passes 10-1

The number of computer science degrees earned in the United States actually peaked during the 2003-2004 school year, with a total of 1.4 million degrees received.

In addition to helping Kentucky’s future employees in general, Givens believes that minorities and women will be helped in particular. He says that they are under-represented in computer science fields, and he is hoping to increase those rates by adding a new language course possibility in schools across America.

Kentucky’s Senate Bill 16 is hardly a novel idea. New Mexico Senator Democrat Jacob Candelaria proposed a similar bill for his state, which would give additional funding to districts to promote JavaScript, HTML and other computer programming language education.

The current education law in New Mexico requires that students take at least one foreign language credit in order to graduate from high school. Candelaria added that each district could still choose to teach Spanish, Latin or French. The goal of his legislation is to add options for students.

Since all of the legislation was recently developed, it remains to be seen if the new computer programming language option will affect the number of bilingual Americans. According to a survey by the European Commission, only about 15-20 percent of Americans consider themselves bilingual. This number is dramatically lower than the 56 percent of Europeans who can speak more than one language.

Many foreign language advocates have stressed the value of language learning, which they believe helps to expand cultural understanding. In addition to facilitating a great cross-cultural exchange, foreign language learning has been shown to provide a wide array of positive impacts. A great deal of research has shown that bilingualism can positively children’s  linguistic, cognitive and educational development. Adding a new language option to schools across America will provide similar benefits, which will be seen as more students explore the computer programming language option.

By Nicci Mende


Courier Journal


Washington Post

Daily Texan Online

One Response to "America Has a New Language"

  1. Andrew Weiler   February 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Yes, learning languages can be enjoyable AND they can get you into jobs and into places that otherwise you could not enter and yes they may even make you smarter. However, the sad fact is that the vast majority of people who learn a second language in school or after struggle and in fact give up well before full fluency. Not only do they give up, but they are sworn off learning languages as their results have been so far below what they expected

    The reason for that is not that they don’t have what it takes, rather the problem is that they are taught or learn in ways that make it difficult for them. Everyone has what it takes to learn languages. We have all proved that by learning the most difficult of the lot, our first.

    What we need is a rejuvenation in how languages are taught. Methods such as memorisation, translation, verb conjugations may have their place but not as the keys. Once schools start to teach in ways that empower students (rather than disempower) then the population at large will slowly start to understand that they need to change what they do if they wish to learn a language to fluency.

    Empowering learners means showing them that they can succeed and they have what it takes. Once we do this, we can recommend people to learn languages, knowing that we are leading them to the outcomes we all anticipate!

    Ref: Book: Language Learning Unlocked by Andrew Weiler

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