Thursday, January 29, 2009

US English Scare Tactic #1

In its mission to make English the official language of the US, US English has set out to clarify why we should all be so concerned about not making it the official language.

US English Scare Tactic #1 (I mean- talking point #1)
Official English promotes unity

There are 322 languages spoken in the United States. How are immigrants going to communicate with each other and with native born Americans if we all speak a different language?

Sometimes it surprises me how seemingly intelligent people recall so little about their own nation's history. English promotes unity? How quickly they forgot all about the civil war. Interestingly, the bloodiest war in our nation's history actually was between people who spoke the same language. Are we somehow all supposed to magically get along just by speaking English? An interesting notion but one that has never proven to be true.

Africans brought to this country learned English. Did that bring them unity with whites. Well, not exactly. There was something called "slavery" that kept them separated and unequal. The ability to speak English didn't do them a whole lot of good back then. In fact, I seam to recall that the Irish also faced harsh treatment by other "native" English speakers. But if they spoke English, why didn't they all treat each other respectfully and feel united in the English language. Could it be that unity doesn't have anything to do with language?

In fact, some of the most peaceful countries are actually multilingual. Switzerland comes to mind. Don't they have four official languages? And there are plenty of other multilingual countries that don't seam to be roiled in strife.I guess they manage to get along somehow. Oh, now I remember, they teach their children more than one language in school. That's right, becoming multilingual can actually make you more tolerant and respectful of others. And isn't that what leads to peace on earth?

I guess this whole "unity" thing might not be the best argument for the U.S. English cause. Maybe tomorrow we'll see what else they have up their sleeve.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Worried about speech delay in your bilingual child?

Well, don't worry! Bilingual children all over the world are growing and developing just fine. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has some great advice for worried parents.
Will learning two languages cause speech or language problems?

No. Children all over the world learn more than one language without developing speech or language problems. Bilingual children develop language skills just as other children do.

What should I expect when my child learns more than one language?

Every bilingual child is unique. Developing skills in two languages depends on the quality and amount of experience the child has using both languages. The following are some basic guidelines:

•Like other children, most bilingual children speak their first words by the time they are 1 year old (e.g., "mama" or "dada"). By age 2, most bilingual children can use two-word phrases (e.g., "my ball" or "no juice"). These are the same language developmental milestones seen in children who learn only one language.
•From time to time, children may mix grammar rules, or they might use words from both languages in the same sentence. This is a normal part of bilingual language development.
•When a second language is introduced, some children may not talk much for a while. This "silent period" can sometimes last several months. Again, this is normal and will go away.
If my child is having trouble communicating, should we use only one language?

In this case, it's best to talk to your child in the language you're most comfortable with. This is true even if he or she uses a different language at school. But try not to make a sudden change in your child's routine. This can be stressful.

Children who are having problems in both languages may need professional help.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama's Agenda for Bilingual Education

From the new Education Agenda of the Obama administration:

Support English Language Learners: Obama and Biden support transitional bilingual education and will help Limited English Proficient students get ahead by holding schools accountable for making sure these students complete school.

Now I am not a big fan of transitional bilingual education programs. My concern is that they are not optimum for producing bilingual and biliterate citizens. If these programs are designed to simply teach children English then there are probably better, more effective ways of doing that. After all, in order to teach a target language, shouldn't instruction be mostly in that language? Children also don't attain the advantages of full biliteracy because, in transitional programs, instruction in their native language is cut short, not usually continuing past the third grade.

Transitional Bilingual Education seems to be the program of choice for politicians as it is the least threatening form of bilingual education. We can safely say to our more conservative counterparts that we support transitional bilingual education because it helps transition immigrants into mainstream English classes. I wish, for once, that we could say that we support bilingual education because we want all of our citizens to be bilingual. If that were actually the case then Transitional Programs would probably not be our priority. We would focus our energy on expanding dual-immersion programs, in which English-speakers and speakers of another language would be mixed together in order for both groups to become bilingual.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy that bilingual education is even on the agenda. But I would be even happier if we could take that next step and ensure that all children in the US had the opportunity to learn another language. Of course, with Obama in the White House, I still have HOPE!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Center for Applied Linguisitcs

The center for applied linguistics is a great resource for teachers, parents and researchers interested in learning more about language learning and other related issues. They have a variety of articles and guides that are quite useful. Check them out at

Friday, January 23, 2009

NABE's beautiful slogan!

The National Association for Bilingual Education has this slogan on their website:



I think it's beautiful!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nashville voters reject English-only measure

Nashville voters rejected a measure that would have made English the official language of the city. The measure would have mandated that all government services be provided only in English. The measure stated,
"No person shall have a right to government services in any other language,"
Approximately 73,000 of the city's 613,632 residents speak another language besides English at home. The defeat of Nashville's English-Only measure was yet another blow to xenophobia and discrimination. Thank you Nashville residents!
See the full article here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education?

Maybe there is something I'm missing, but I'm not exactly sure why Obama chose Arne Duncan as the new Secretary of Education. Now I don't know a whole lot about him but of what I know:

-He has never taught children, or teens, or anyone.
-He has a BA in Sociology.
-He has no teacher or administrative credentials.
-He started a program that paid students to get A's.
-He bribed students to show up on the first day of school with tickets to sports games? For real?!!!

Of course he did get test scores up and increased the graduation rate but I'm pretty sure I could do the same if I paid people to study and gave prizes just for coming to school. But is that really what we want? I know I can get my kids to do a whole lot more chores when enticed by a candy or a sticker. But I'm not sure that's what I want to teach my children.

Now, I usually think Obama a pretty smart guy, but I just have to ask, wasn't there anyone more qualified for the job? Someone who has some understanding of teaching and learning, child development, the history of educational practice and policy and a solid understanding of why bribery cannot be our long term educational goal. I realize there need to be some serious changes to our educational practices. Our system needs an overhaul to get us into the 21st century. For now I'll be putting my trust in President Obama's decision, and if that $4,000 for all A's goes national, I'll be hoping my kids get straight A's for the next 8 years.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama on Bilingual Education

We are just hours away from Obama's inauguration. There is much to look forward to in this momentous moment for our country. Among other things is Obama's belief in bilingualism and the impact bilingual citizens have on our country's future success. This quote was from a meeting with a group of high school students,

Obama was asked about bilingual education, especially given current climate of immigration. Obama believes that everyone should be bilingual or even “trilingual.” “When we as a society do a really bad job teaching foreign languages – it is costing us when it comes to being competitive in a global marketplace,” he said.

View the full article here.