Summer Series: Living in a Globalized World

July 18, 2016

Global Language Project is a non-profit organization that specializes in giving students the opportunities to learn languages from a young age. Angela Jackson, the founder and CEO of Global Language Project, described during her TED talk how important it is to open a child up to other cultures, while simultaneously allowing a child to further understand their own culture. This describes the very essence of Global Language Project, as it is the only non-profit that focuses on elementary world language education, making its mission statement very unique. In the recent months, the organization has changed tactics from working directly in schools to instead working with teachers. This allows Global Language Project to reach more students by giving the teachers the resources and understanding they need to be effective educators.

 

Teaching a foreign language to a young child can seem like a daunting task. Some researchers believe that young children do not yet have the mental capacity to absorb and effectively engage with a world language. Other research suggests that teaching another language is a distracting influence that can slow children’s progress to becoming fluent in their own tongue. However, a study using the data set Growing Up in Scotland “suggests that acquiring two languages does not affect the cognitive and non-cognitive skills of young children.” Additionally, according to a study conducted by Harvard University, “learning additional languages increases critical thinking skills, creativity and flexibility of the mind in young children. Pupils who learn a foreign language outscore their non-foreign language learning peers in verbal and maths standardized tests, indicating that learning additional language is a cognitive activity not just a linguistic one.” What cannot be disputed is the value of learning another language can have on a child’s employment prospects, especially one growing up in a low-income urban environment. Being bilingual increases one’s ability to communicate with people from all over the world in a professional setting, thus boosting the desirability of the candidate. Global Language Project attempts to teach students a foreign language starting at elementary level to maximize these benefits and therefore maximize their potential. 

 

Syrian primary school children in class in Lebanon, by the UK Department for International Development

 

I have only been interning at Global Language Project for two months, and have already been completely immersed in the world of running a new non-profit. My first few weeks were directly hands on, as I travelled to the different schools where Global Language Project works and spoke with the students involved in the language classes that we helped develop. Currently, we are running an intensive three week teacher training conference in which I have been directly involved with operating and maintaining logistics. Throughout this conference I have been exposed to a multitude of language teachers ranging from Korean to Arabic who have been working together to create a successful teaching environment for their students; something I find truly inspirational. This has allowed me to see first-hand the potential that these students have and their willingness to learn a new language. When conducting a survey at a school, one child told me that they love taking Mandarin class because they know it will give them the opportunity to have a career, and create a life for themselves they did not deem possible before.

 

As someone who hopes to one day work in the non-profit sector, this internship has allowed me intimately interact with non-profit work in a way that I would otherwise be unable to do. It has taught me how to stay organized and on my toes at all times, a skill that will become essential in my future career. Most importantly, this internship has showed me how valuable not only a quality, but also a diverse education is. For this, I greatly appreciate my time spent at Global Language Project, and cannot wait to see what is still in store for me.

 

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