Regarding your June 15 editorial, "With liberty and English for all": After spending 20 years representing a community on Los Angeles's Eastside, 80 percent of whose residents are Mexican-American, I have learned that almost all of the immigrants from Spanish-speaking nations understand that if they are to find a future for themselves and their families in the United States, it is absolutely necessary for them to learn to speak English.
The elementary, junior high, and high schools have almost as many students at night studying English as they have during the day taking regular academic subjects. These immigrants want to speak English!
We have a duty to our immigrants to help them learn America's language. We are one people, tied together by a single language. And it is our duty as Americans to aid immigrants in being able to communicate with us and understand their adopted country.
We may be concerned about the illegal vs. legal immigrant problem. But we should leave that to the enforcers of our law while we assist everyone who is already with us in learning the language that is necessary for understanding what America is all about. Your editorial is right on!
Regarding the June 13 article, "Bilingualism issue rises again": This is a topic that needs more coverage, and the people to go to for valuable and accurate input are those who work with English-language learners.
In a country that has never placed a high value on second-language learning and foreign-language education, people need to understand the differences between being able to speak a second language and being able to use a second language for high cognitive tasks such as taking tests, writing reports, and the other academic purposes for which English is used.
English-language learning for academic purposes and to achieve academic success as measured by standardized tests require complex abilities, not only the ability to speak English. Scores for MCAS – the standardized achievement test in Massachusetts – will rise over time when English-language learners have had sufficient time to master speaking, listening, reading, and writing in their second language.
How many people out there who took a foreign language in high school can perform high-level cognitive tasks in French and Spanish today?
In response to the June 13 article about bilingualism: As an American living outside the US, I am confronted almost daily with the meaning of being an American. What is it that defines us? It is not a common language, religion, or ethnic origin. Especially for immigrants, it is not even a common historical heritage.
What makes us Americans is a belief in a series of rules for behavior and citizenship. The rules and principles in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are the foundation for our common belief.
The melting pot in the United States is well, and we need language as a common means of expressing ourselves because this goes a long way toward ensuring national unity.
I am all for preserving and nurturing one's cultural roots (I have my own, after all), but the place to do this is at home. So ditch bilingual programs altogether. We will all be richer in the end.
James de Gomar
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