I don't think it is controversial to acknowledge that the Unites States is way behind Europe, Canada, and other developed countries in teaching and learning world (or "foreign") languages. One major way we go wrong is by leaving out world language education until the high school years.
There is a plethora of research verifying the observation that second (and third, etc.) language acquisition in the early elementary grades carries clear multifaceted benefit for students and society. Here are few general points summarized from the research:
Students who begin learning a second language early, namely, by third grade, show greater learning proficiency across subject areas and disciplines, and especially in basic English-language skills, because language learning enhances cognitive development overall and because literacy and thinking skills transfer from one language to another. Students also gain exposure to other cultures and people groups. Additionally, young students are ripe for language learning as research indicates the greatest plasticity in children's brains before the age of ten. (See Lipton 2003.*)
Society benefits from a multi-lingual populace, not only from the enhanced cognitive development and appropriate cultural sensitivity of multi-lingual individuals, but also from the advantages accrued to business and national security. Those who wish to advance the national good through government service in areas such as intelligence, diplomacy, or the armed forces can meet an acute, chronic need by acquiring second language proficiency, especially in certain "less commonly taught languages" (LCTLs). (See Malone, Rifkin, Christian, & Johnson, 2005.)
Minority groups also benefit when their mother tongue is preserved. Preserving such heritage languages seems similar to preserving fine art or archeological artifacts. As mentioned in the previous post, Greek is the special heritage group of the Christian Church, as are Hebrew and Latin.
Language is one of the highest and most complex of man's creative productions in which he images his Creator, the pre-existent Word. How will you incorporate secondary language development in your child's education?