Bilingual Education in the United States

Anyone who is multi-lingual has a distinct advantage in today’s world.  To be able to communicate in one or more languages makes one more marketable in an ever increasing global economy. 

In many countries learning a second language is required in elementary and/or secondary schools.  These countries have education systems that include courses that teach conversational second languages, as opposed to the United States, where the foreign languages that we teach are more formal.  That is, when we teach Spanish, for example, in the United States, we teach proper grammar, verbiage, syntax, etc.  We do not teach our students to carry on a conversation in Spanish.

And furthermore, what we teach as Spanish is not what is spoken in most of the U.S. today by those of Hispanic origin; we teach Spanish, not Tex-Mex or any of the various dialects spoken in our neighboring country of Mexico. 

We must keep in mind, too, that the United States is, was, and always will be considered the “Melting Pot”, where immigrants from various countries came to start a new life, a life based on freedom of religion, freedom of choice…a life based on freedom.

When these “newcomers” to the United States arrived a great majority of them did not speak English.  These immigrating Americans settled in various areas among other immigrants who spoke their home language.  The Irish settled in “Irish neighborhoods” and Germans moved into “German neighborhoods” and Chinese into “Chinese neighborhoods”; you get the picture.

In these neighborhoods one expected to hear conversations in languages other than English.  The children who lived in these neighborhoods went to neighborhood schools and were educated by teachers who spoke their language, whatever that might be.  In addition, though, they learned to speak English as well.

The immigrants to the U.S. did not expect store owners to print signs in more than one language.  They did not expect schools to offer education in more than one language.  They realized that they had come to new country and they anticipated that they would need to learn a new language in order to be successful in their new home.

Not so today.

For whatever reason, our government officials have decided that we owe it to newcomers to our country to teach them in their home language rather than teach them English first and then educate them.  This program is referred to as “Bilingual Education”. 

In a true bilingual education program, students are taught in their home language and then may be taught to speak English.  The problem today is that there is really no reason for these students to learn much English because we provide everything they need in their first language.  We have textbooks, voting information, social security information, driver’s license information, shopping information, credit card and banking information all in numerous languages.

The Federal Government tells us we have to do this.

The expense is enormous!

Classes in our public schools have to be taught in different languages.  In many schools in the United States students are taught in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Japanese.  The cost increase to schools is tremendous.  Funding and other resources are strained beyond belief.

Why?

Who benefits?

Are we really doing these “Americans” a favor by not forcing them to learn to speak English?  And yes, I said forcing them to learn English.  To live in the United States and to receive the benefits of being a citizen one should speak English.

English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are an alternative to Bilingual Education.  In these classes students are taught in English and are given assistance to help make the transition from the home language to the English language.  In these classes the instructor may or may not speak the home language and the student is given more incentive (responsibility) for learning to speak English.

Yes, America is the land of opportunity.  We are the world’s melting pot.  As American citizens we have a lot to be proud of and we enjoy many freedoms that citizens of other countries do not enjoy.  Getting a free and appropriate education is one of these freedoms.  It is an opportunity that every American citizen is entitled to. 

Being an American citizen carried with it certain responsibilities.  Speaking the home language of our country should be the responsibility of each citizen.  Bilingual education is not helping us; it is hindering us.