[EDLING:193] Re: L2 in US Schools

Richard Hudson dick at LINGUISTICS.UCL.AC.UK
Thu May 13 20:05:21 UTC 2004

Much the same debate has been going on for some time in the UK, because of
similar problems in our education system. In fact, it's very easy to see
that the situation has got worse in the last ten years - fewer 16-year olds
opting for languages in the last two years of school, fewer going on to
university to study languages (with disastrous effects on language depts at
university), and (therefore) fewer graduates training as language teachers,
so fewer (and worse) language teachers in school, so fewer 16-year olds
opting for languages .... But the government (whose head, incidentally, can
speak fluent French) is trying hard to reverse the trend. There's quite a
lot of information about what they're doing at
         Incidentally, one interesting fact that's emerged from the various
inquiries into the problem has been that the Republic of Ireland, which (of
course) is also an English-speaking country, does not have the same
problem. With a tenth of our population, they have the same number of
school-leavers specialising in languages. (But more recently, I'm told, the
rot has been setting in, which is disappointing.) So much for the argument
that our national unconcern about foreign languages is the inevitable
consequence of the dominance of English.
         Dick Hudson

At 19:07 13/05/2004, you wrote:
>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
>Do you Yahoo!?
>Yahoo! Movies -
><http://movies.yahoo.com/showtimes/movie?mid=1808405861>Buy advance
>tickets for 'Shrek 2'

Dick (Richard) Hudson, FBA
Dept of Phonetics and Linguistics,
University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT
020 7679 3152; fax 020 7383 4108; www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/home.htm

More information about the Edling mailing list