A question that came up while driving back from Pismo Beach* with my girlfriend this weekend: How useful, really, are high school foreign language courses? I took Spanish in the 8th grade, and then for three years in high school. I nonetheless lack even elementary proficiency in Spanish, and my sense is that I am not unusual in this regard.
It's not just that I think that foreign language classes are in many cases treated as a joke - mine were all perfectly serious. It's really that attending class 45 minutes a day, five days a week seems to me like an awfully feeble gesture toward learning a new language, even if the criteria for "learning" are extremely weak.
I do feel like I gained some insight into English grammar in my Spanish classes, but I've yet to discover much utility for the actual Spanish I acquired. What are we hoping kids get out of all the time they spend in foreign language classes in high school?
*While volleyball isn't nearly as boring as baseball, it's much more consistently painful. Sports, as a set, perpetually disappoint.