Wednesday, September 3, 2008

English, and Bilingual education.

For generations, the French have fiercely guarded their language against the horreurs anglais. But France's education minister yesterday admitted for the first time that the secret to success is speaking better English. Xavier Darcos claimed poor English is now a 'handicap' because all international business is conducted in the language, and said French schools would offer extra lessons during the holidays. He also admitted that, because of globalisation, very few people outside France will being able to speak French in the future.
Daily Mail link

Can we now extend that to this country? How many businesses can you get a job with if you only speak Spanish? How many US colleges will award a degree if the student only speaks Chinese? How many stores, restaurants, policemen, neighbors, and other daily conversationalists will be able to deal a friend who only speaks Vietnamese?

Can we admit finally that the use of English is the biggest key to success in this country and that putting off the learning of English is more damaging to the future of a student than probably anything else? Can we understand that allowing a kid to get through high school without a clear command of English is essentially committing him to a life of only watching Telemundo and only getting jobs in businesses that cater exclusively to Hispanics - a vanishingly small portion of the job market.

So why do we still insist that every ESL ELL (English Language Learner, because we all know that changing what we call them makes all the difference) student get a bilingual education? All students who can't speak English should get 7 straight periods of English. Nothing else. This phase might even take a couple of months. It's called a crash course and it's effective.

When they get enough to make it in a math class, add one. When they can handle a social studies class at an ESL-level, do it.

Think back to your own time - you took one class of French and then everything else in English. How much did you learn? Maybe enough to not get lost the Metro but nowhere near enough to matriculate at the Sorbonne. Giving them one period of English and six other courses taught in Spanish, knowing they're going home to a home that doesn't speak English and knowing he's surrounded with friends who also don't speak any English? That's just prolonging the time until that kid learns the language. It may even be too late.

Try going to any other country and demand that people teach you in English - oh, wait, they all know enough English that you can get by.

But then, what do I know?

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