Oregon:Immersion best for fluency

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Dec 20 14:12:19 UTC 2008

Immersion best for fluency

As a German-born American citizen, I am appalled at the story in
Wednesday's Oregonian that only one in five students is proficient in
English after five years. ("Fewer English learners fluent," Dec. 17).
I left Germany at the age of 12 and was thrust into an
English-speaking environment at an English boarding school. I don't
remember how long it took me to become fluent in English, but three
years later, when I became an American high school student, there was
never a question as to my proficiency in English.

My entire family, including grandparents, became English-speakers at
later stages in their lives and successfully conducted their careers
in their new language. It is an insult to one's intelligence to insist
that it takes more than three years to learn English -- Arabic or
Mandarin, maybe -- but not English. English is not a complicated
language and only educators, who have their own interests, rather than
their students', at heart, make it so.

Based on personal experience and years of direct observation, I am
convinced that total immersion is the only way to learn a new language


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