Learning English at school is becoming more and more compulsory rather than a choice to be made by students. Many countries – Italy among them – have introduced the compulsory study of a second language since the primary years of school. The choice of the language, moreover, is not left to the pupils – or rather their families, considered the young age of the students themselves: conversely, it is made by the national education system.
In Italy, like in 97,3% of cases in EU (Eurydice study of 2014), English is the chosen foreign language to be studied. Moreover, the level of the first and the second foreign language asked to students gaining their Diploma, is B2. After English, as second foreign languages studied in EU, there are French (33,3% of EU students), German (23,1% of EU students) and Spanish (13,1% of EU students).*
But why did countries decide to introduce English as a compulsory foreign language to be studied since the primary years?
Studies highlight the importance of getting familiar with a language starting from when we are children, if we want to acquire proficiency and a better accent. Studying a second language from a tender age has many proved benefits. It increases the ability of the child to acquire a good accent, not influenced by the country of living, but rather by the person who teaches them English. Furthermore, it increases the possibility of becoming bilingual and therefore, the proficiency of that specific language. Becoming bilingual by studying a language from a very tender age is a topic whose pros could be discussed for ages.
Mastering a second language may also change one’s mentality, favouring open-mindedness and adaptability to different situations. This happens because, together with a language, the culture of the countries where that specific language is spoken should be taught at school, thus increasing the acceptance of cultures other from one’s native.
Why not another language?
Several reasons may be found for this choice of language, but above all, English is the Lingua Franca, used almost all over the world by people of every social level. Globalisation made compulsory to have a shared languagethat guarantees a common ground of understanding for people living in the most different countries of the world: English is that language.
English is being more and more recognised as official academic language, used in documents, projects and announcements at least as far as the European Union universities are concerned. Therefore, English is essentialif a student aims at having an academic career, even though not a languages one: English is needed also for scientific faculties.
Moreover, foreign experiences like Erasmus or Erasmus for traineeship are highly regarded not only for academic careers, but also for working careers. Firms generally take into great consideration this kind of experiences, that therefore give bonus points to job applicants. Consequently, English becomes extremely important in education, no matter the career that a student wants to follow after graduation.
Furthermore, when we want to interact with people speaking a language other than ours, and speak in English, it is not given that we convey the exact message that we have in mind, if we don’t master English. It is true that the web is swarming with translation services, but are they 100% reliable? Are they inside our minds to exactly get the meaning of our ideas? They aren’t, so what is better than ourselves translating speeches by means of our own personal knowledge? Nothing.
GSO is an international school that aims at teaching school subjects in English, but also different cultures. We are a boarding school that hosts students coming from all over the world, that share their different customs, accept their peers’ traditions and want to learn also the Italian lifestyle, its history and habits.