Letter: Schools must ensure students learn English well
I am writing in response to the article earlier this week on the bilingual school plans.
First, I hugely support learning multiple languages. In the context of my work experiences outside the U.S., I learned one language via Berlitz and a second via personal tutors. Now, and off and on, I am studying another through Rosetta Stone. So, my cautionary note is not about learning a second language, but rather that English first and primarily be learned extremely well in school.
English is the language of business, worldwide. I lived in five countries outside the U.S. and have done business in about a dozen and a half more. English was the common language in all of those.
Singapore, whose population is Chinese, Malaysian and Indian, largely, where all of those people may speak their native tongue at home, has mandated English be the language used for business as part of their strategy to assure their economic success. The commercial airline industry has agreed that English be the language used, globally. Imagine the conversations between control towers and airplanes if every country went their own way.
The law here in the U.S. is stored in the English language. The greater part of the world’s current knowledge is stored in the English language. Not having an excellent facility in the use of English will definitely isolate anyone and probably limit their success in future schooling as well as in many vocations.
I encourage all of the well-meaning folks considering a bilingual school to carefully think through all of the unintended consequences to the students that they are striving to help.
I am a second-generation American. My four grandparents came to this country when they were in their teens or early 20s. They spoke a very broken English as long as they lived here. Their children all learned English very well, to such an extent that none of my generation speaks the native languages of our grandparents. Our parents understood the value of assimilation and expected that we would, too.
It is no favor, regardless of how well-intentioned, to handicap a child here by not ensuring that they really do learn English in all of its depth, breadth and difficulty, even the much despised spelling. Remember not all disparate outcomes are the result of discrimination against an individual or a group. It is no form of justice to forfeit any child’s potential for an unmeasured goal.
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