Money and Bilinguilism

An interesting article in the New York Times caught my attention and I recommend it to anyone who speaks more than one language or just is interesting in languages.
When I was in school in France, the study of English was mandatory from 6th grade to 12th grade. A second language, German and Spanish were back then the two principal choices, was mandatory from 8th grade to 12th grade.
Did it mean I was fluent in English and German when I graduated from high school?
Let’s say that I spoke German well enough to help with the wedding of my sister-in-law when she married a German in the 80s.
My knowledge of English, it turned out, was also good enough to get by when I moved to California, but many more years in the US would be necessary before I could say, “I’m fluent.”
What about French? My husband being also a French native, we always speak French together.
My American-born children spoke a very decent French as long as they were little and home with me most of the time. When they entered elementary school, they lost some of their French and only regained it when I insisted they took French in high school.
Their high school is located on a state university campus, allowing them to take some college level classes. In sophomore and junior year, my two daughters took French classes taught by a university professor. 
Do I consider them bilingual? Tough question. Their American accent when they speak French is not as distinct as mine when I speak English, but my English reading and writing skills are superior to their French skills.
For the majority of people, an accent is what targets a non-native speaker. So for most Americans, I remain a foreigner.
A foreigner who speaks French. And some English.
In France, my children become the Americans who speak some French.
Americans are often, and especially from a European perspective, perceived as ignorant people who only speak their own version of English and expect everyone else to speak it as well.
It is true that English has become so universal that foreign languages are rarely taught in American high schools.
On the other hand, French children and teenagers are still taught English and at least another foreign language in school. Does it mean they are all bilingual or trilingual? If they don’t spend extensive periods of time abroad practicing their formal teaching, they aren’t.
The New York Times article is interesting and quite complete. One aspect is left out.  
The key to true bilingualism, in my opinion, is the possibility to make frequent trips abroad and spend enough time with native speakers. And sojourns abroad are costly for an average family. In France or in the US.
Some of the kids I went to school with spoke English better than I did, although I loved foreign languages and was a good student. The reason was their frequent trips to the United Kingdom or  to the United States (a dream for me back then!).
This is why, besides immigrants who keep speaking their native language at home, and military personnel who learn foreign languages in the field, most people who speak another language are wealthier.
Bilingualism like any other educational field remains too often linked to money.

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