When in Rome, do as the Romans do
How do babies learn to speak their mother tongue? They are immersed in the language, of course.
I am constantly reminded when watching toddlers begin to put words together. Knowing the language helps them develop, fit in, and become good citizens. If you — like I have — worked to learn at least one language beyond English, and lived in another country to do it, you have undoubtedly seen the wisdom of being immersed in a language in order to master it.
Being at least bilingual is terrific, and it is a necessity to become proficient in the host country’s language. Use the native tongue at home, if it is desired, but use English in school and any opportunity that arises, so improvement happens daily. It should not be required that the host country’s government (hence, its tax-paying citizens) have to pay to accommodate anyone’s unwillingness to learn. Yes, that is what it is. It is not a disability; disabilities are complications that truly need to have allowances.
Why then, do people who come to this country not extend their work ethic to learning the English language?
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They demand ballots be printed in the language of their former country. They demand students be taught in their native tongues, supposedly to help them adjust. The truth is, it does just the opposite. I know. When I studied French in high school, the classes were not conducted in French until my third year. That year, the progress of the entire class was immensely accelerated. When I was an exchange student to France I lived with a French family who could speak English, but did not. They knew I came to live with them to be immersed in the French language. Immersion is truly how one best learns a language.
I chose Central College in Pella, Iowa, for my degree because they had an agreement for classes with the University of Paris, the Sorbonne, which I attended during my junior year. (They now have programs at mulitiple foreign universities.) All classes were in French, no whining about it being a hardship. We students voluntarily lived in France and wanted to assimilate as much as possible. We made it a point to get acquainted with local shopkeepers who enjoyed our halting conversations; they were helpful and patient because they knew we were working on the language.
When you look at the immigrants to the U.S. who have done well, prospered, and created their own niches, you will notice several things they have in common, one of which is their work ethic — and that extends into learning English.
When I lived in another country, I learned the language. I expect no less of those who come to live in the U.S. Our media, our government, and we, ourselves, need to quit coddling these folks and help them to help themselves.
Peggy Sanders’ command of the French language is a bit rusty, though she occasionally dreams in French — and her cat understands perfectly. N’est-ce pas, Minou? Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. ❖
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