Saturday, November 27, 2010

Learn English!

This is still the United States of America the last time I checked, yet I feel like I have moved to a Spanish speaking country. Everywhere I go people are speaking Spanish: in the stores, at the doctors, at Motor Vehicles, restaurants…you name it. If I call customer service or a utility company a Spanish recording comes on saying “marque numero uno por espanol.” Shouldn’t “numero uno” be English? Our signs are in Spanish. The instructions that come with your appliances and gadgets are Spanish. Pretty soon they will be requiring all children in schools to study Spanish along with English. I would like to see the emphasis put back on English!

When my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles came to America, they had to learn English. No allowances were made for them. My father, who could barely read in his native Italian, had to learn enough English to pass the written test to get a permit before he could get a driver’s license. There were no tests in Italian that he could take. All the immigrant children in my neighborhood had to go to school with the rest of us, sit in the same classes, and learn all the subjects in English. And immersion really worked back then. They all seemed to be fluent in English within a year or so. I witnessed it myself. Even children in my daughter’s kindergarten class, who didn’t speak a word of English, were fluent by the end of the year. Now we have ESL classes and the kids are taking forever to learn English. Why? Because these classes allow them to keep using their native language and there is no real need to acquire the new language. If they are taught in their native language and they speak it at home too, where is the incentive to learn English?

I really think we should go back to the way we used to do it. Place all the children in English speaking classrooms where they can hear the language spoken and are totally immersed in it. That’s really the best and fastest way for them to start speaking, reading and writing it. And, instead of ESL classes, supplement their curriculum with English tutoring, to facilitate their learning of the language. I really believe that ESL is holding them back and doing them a disservice. The whole program should be reevaluated. It’s not difficult for young children to acquire a new language if they are immersed in it all day. Why not let nature take it’s course? It’s a much more efficient and less expensive process and it has proven to be successful. Student’s will be in a much better position to enter college and do well if they demonstrate proficiency in English. That’s not going to happen if the ESL system makes it easier for them to retain their native languages.

It’ just my opinion, but as they say, “When in Rome…”


  1. In our school it drives me crazy when a well-spoken intermediate grade student asks for a note that's being sent home to be in Spanish. I truly believe that child can, and should read the note to their parents in Spanish if the parents can't read English. I do think there's quite a lot of enabling going on, and that would be one quick, and simple way to put the ball in the court of the child to keep the parent informed. Of course if it's a discipline letter about that student, it probably makes more sense to either have the ESL staff member call home and talk directly to the parent, or have that note translated so that the information is passed on correctly!

  2. Yes, it would have to be sent in Spanish if it concerns discipline. No kid in his right mind is going to translate that correctly, lol. But I really think ESL has set kids back. In my day there was nothing but immersion and it worked usually in a year's time. In my opinion, that's the best way to learn any language, and look how much money would be saved by eliminating ESL programs, which in my opinion do not work. If some students are struggling, then they could have supplemental English lessons to expedite acquiring the language.