Sanders: Speak English |

Sanders: Speak English

How do babies learn to speak their mother tongue? They are immersed in the language, of course. I am constantly reminded of this as our grand-girls have begun 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, but it is a necessity to become proficient in a host country’s language. Use the native tongue at home, if it is desired, but use English in public. It should not be required that the host country’s government (hence, its tax-paying citizens) have to pay to accommodate anyone’s hesitancy to learn the language of the country of residence. Not putting forth the effort to even try is sad as well as limiting.

Why then, do people who come to this country work so hard at not being immersed in the English language?

“When I lived in another country, I learned the language. I expect no less of those who come to live in the U.S.”

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, it was in my third year when the classes were finally conducted in French. That year, the progress of the entire class was immensely accelerated. When I was an exchange student in France and lived with a French family who could speak English, but did not, they knew I came to learn French. It was reassuring to know they spoke English, I suppose, but it was not a prerequisite. They knew enough other English speakers and certainly didn’t need to practice their English on me.

I chose Central College in Pella, Iowa, for my degree because they had an agreement for classes with the University of Paris, the Sorbonne, and I attended there. (They now have agreements and programs at 10 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.