ISEE Upper Level Reading : Analyzing Cause and Effect in Contemporary Life Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Upper Level Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In Contemporary Life Passages

"American Students and Foreign Languages" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

American students often find it difficult to understand the need for learning a foreign language. In part, this lack of understanding seems to occur because of the insulated nature of American geography. Unlike Europe, America is a massive country, comprised of states that all speak the same language. When an American travels from state to state, he or she is not confronted with a completely different language group as is the case when, for example, a Frenchman travels from his native land to the neighboring country of Italy or to England. Although America does have Canada to its north and Mexico to its south, still it does not have the great internal variety of languages as one finds in the small European continent; therefore, students often do not have the experience of the practical importance of knowing other languages.

Of course, America has always been called the “melting pot,” for many peoples have arrived on these shores bringing their own distinctive cultures and languages. Still, this very expression—“melting pot”—shows that these immigrant cultures do not forever retain their own particular manners and languages. With time, these varied cultures become part of the American culture as a whole. While they do influence and change the culture, they likewise become assimilated into it. Their spoken language becomes English. Even if they retain their mother tongue, they generally speak it privately. This is done as a matter of personal heritage, not as part of the day-to-day life in the culture.

Additionally, America’s global dominance likewise allows Americans to avoid learning other languages. Since America has such influence over the rest of the world, it is generally in the interests of other peoples to learn English in order to be part of the economic, political, and military world in which America operates; therefore, even at international meetings that are filled with people from many nationalities and language groups, English-speakers are at an advantage because they can talk with almost anyone. The work and learning of other peoples thus allows the Americans to convince themselves that there is no need to learn another language.

Lastly, American education has come to emphasize mathematics and science to such a great degree that things such as language can often seem unimportant. The main goals of education are said to be the training of students for the technology workforce. If this is presented as the main goal of school, few children will understand why any of the non-science subjects are included in the curriculum. If a subject does not help in learning math and science, it will appear to be irrelevant. In particular, foreign languages do not seem to add to the teaching of math and science, which can be done very easily and effectively in English alone.

Of course, many other reasons could be considered, and a more detailed discussion would undertake such a lengthy investigation. Still, the factors discussed above do provide some sense as to why American students find it difficult to understand the importance of learning a foreign language.

Based on what is said in the third paragraph, why are other countries encouraged to learn English?

Possible Answers:

America's global dominance creates an environment that greatly encourages the use of English by citizens of other countries.

American dominance has rotted the cultures of other nations, making them subservient to American mores and language.

Other nations naturally enjoy the use of English at international meetings, for it is the most expressive of modern languages.

America has enforced its language by military pressure on other nations.

American imperialism forces English on other countries by refusing to trade with non-English-speaking nations.

Correct answer:

America's global dominance creates an environment that greatly encourages the use of English by citizens of other countries.

Explanation:

The most related sentence to this question is, "Since America has such influence over the rest of the world, it is generally in the interests of other peoples to learn English in order to be part of the economic, political, and military world in which America operates." Other nations have an interest in learning English in order to function with ease in the broad area in which America operates with dominance. While this paragraph speaks of American "dominance," this merely means power or influence; it does not necessarily mean that such dominance is despotic or militaristic.

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