[EDLING:190] Re: L2 in US Schools

Maureen T. Matarese maureenmatarese at YAHOO.COM
Thu May 13 18:07:46 UTC 2004

Well, although we don't have these expectations in the foreign language classroom--the question is why (as B. Spolsky mentioned as well on the listserv).   Why is it seemingly unimportant for a country that has so many immigrant populations to be fluent in those other languages?  Why are Spanish-English dual language programs so stigmatized?  Why is multilingualism not seen as an asset in the hiring process (for some it is--but not categorically)?  I would like to live to see the day when we have a leader who is educated enough to respond in French and then translate his response for the other reporters.  That'll be the day.

At AAAL, I was struck by one presentation in particular that began in the speaker's mother tongue.  She mentioned how important it was to align herself with her country and culture by beginning this way.  Although she had to present her paper in English--it was important that she make the listeners aware of how this English presentation affects how she is viewed within her own culture.  A growning, "required" English fluency worldwide may be what is happening, but that doesn't make it right.

So we come back to how to really start changing these long-held ideologies.  In a globalizing world--is it not better to make relations more close by showing alliance through language learning and fluency?

-Maureen (Mo)

"Harold F. Schiffman" <haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu> wrote:
I think Leo VanLier identifies some of the issues that are crucial here.
American linguistic culture just doesn't have the expectations and values
about "foreign" language learning that others, do.

He says: d) as part of a successful education, everyone was expected to
succeed in language classes. [and] If there is one ingredient that stands
out in my mind it is EXPECTATIONS. It was simply expected that an educated
person spoke the three foreign languages....

American linguistic culture doesn't have these expectations, and
constantly denigrates them. Did people notice what happened a while back
when a reporter at a press conference held by GWB asked the French
ambassador (foreign minister, whatever) a question in French? GWB went
ballistic, chewed out the reporter, castigated him, mocked him, ridiculed
him. Sure taught him a lesson!

So much for the value of language learning, and using it appropriately.

H. Schiffman

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