Language is another one of those issues that won’t go away. As someone with an advanced degree in Applied Linguistics, I am always angered by the sheer stupidity and ignorance displayed by policy makers in this area.
Like so many other issues, why do politicians think they are qualified to make any decisions at all? They don’t know anything about sociolinguistics, bilingual education, immersion education or first and second language acquisition theories. They don’t know anything about historical linguistics or the ways in which languages develop. The overwhelming majority of our lawmakers cannot speak or understand a second language. Perhaps that is why they are afraid of people who can.
Everyone who lives in The America should speak English – this I agree with in theory, but only because it is to the advantage of the individual. But if an individual chooses not to learn or speak English, that is his right. If immigrants do not ensure that their children speak English, that may be stupid and shortsighted, but it is also their right. Millions of Americans exercise their right to be stupid and shortsighted every day, after all.
Children of immigrants that speak a language other than English are an incredible educational and future economic resource for The America. I watched this Fox News video this morning, in which Michelle Dallacroce, founder of Mothers Against Illegal Aliens, demonstrates the collective stupidity of our country. Linda Chavez, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, had just remarked that we need to have a way for people to enter the country legally because 2 million new jobs per year are being created. Ms Dallacroce’s comment to that was, “What jobs do the women and the children do that we have to have them here other than their children's job is to dumb down the American children and overpopulate our schools?”
I am not sure if her remark means that Ms Dallacroce would be happy to have foreign guest workers in The America as long as they left their families at home, or that she wants to clean the toilets at Burger King herself. Yes, we have terrible problems in public education, but they can hardly be blamed on the children themselves.
I am a proponent of bilingual education. Before you argue with me about how it doesn’t work, let me make it clear that I am not talking about the feeble attempts at bilingual education that have been made in the public schools. I am talking about real immersion bilingual programmes taught by teachers who are actually bilingual themselves and properly trained to do the job right (i.e. MA or other qualification in bilingual education). This would not include teachers who have an elementary teaching credential and happen to speak another language – that has been tried and it does not work.
In my model, you have a classroom with (i) a properly trained teacher and (ii) children who are, in roughly equal numbers, native speakers of the two languages that are being used in the classroom. By the time they finish their primary education, all of the children will be equally skilled in both languages in speaking, listening, reading and writing. It has been done in private schools and it works. For this model, by the way, we need children of immigrants and we need not only tolerance, but also support, for the use of languages other than English.
The world does not end at the borders of The America. The