There has been an article recently in the New York Times about Chinese being just the latest "fad" for U.S. Schools - here is a bit from it:
The Times recently reported on the rise of Chinese-language instruction in American schools, a push supported by aid from the Chinese government. While language fads come and go — there was Russian during the cold war, then Japanese in the 1980’s, then Arabic after 9/11 — thousands of public schools have stopped teaching foreign languages in the last decade. Is the boom in Chinese language education going to last?
We have to start foreign languages - no matter what the language is - in elementary schools. Starting in high school means that students get frustrated and will never progress far enough (in a typical high school program) to become proficient and actually use the language.
I talk to TOO many teachers in elementary school who see their students once a week. What in the world can you teach them that they will retain from week to week. If we don't realize the importance of starting a foreign language young, we are not going to teach them very much.
Our three sons started French when they were 4 years old, having a bilingual instruction through 5th grade - one day the subjects are all taught in French, the next day in English. Their English did NOT suffer, they learned to read and write in both languages, then math, etc. in both languages. BUT we had to pay for a private school education for them to receive this!