How many of us out there took a couple of years of French or Spanish in high school, and don`t remember anything except how to sing 1-10 in Spanish, or Allouette in French? One year of foreign language at a college level, and you`ll be at least be able to buy groceries from the street. So, why don`t we teach our children foreign language in foreign language class?
My sister took 8 years of French during elementary school, all from K-8. Guess how well she speaks French now? Yup - elementary level. What a shame, because children are like sponges - they can become fluent in so little time. Ten years ago my two Korean cousins came over from Korea when they were 9 and 7, respectively. They couldn't speak English, so I used my embarrassingly broken Korean to speak to them. I didn't meet them again until one year later, and they had become native-speaker fluent in English. Imagine my shock - its like waking up and being able to talk to your dog.
Foreign language, especially in elementary school, is the only realm of all the academic subjects where children can do better than adults can achieve their whole life. It is mottainai if we can't take advantage of this childhood magic, and hear language come to life in a different country. Some teachers may be more for teaching culture, arguing that without it there is no motivation for the child to learn language, but being forced to learn about culture in a different language is to experience it through the eyes of a foreigner. And then there truly will be no motivation to master the language.