Friday, January 23, 2009

Language and immersion…

Happy Friday, y’all!

C-Money and this bitch are getting ready for the NHL All-Star Game this Sunday…yay!

Mercy, it seems like the season just started and here we are at the All-Star break already.

Blink.

Anyhoo, this bitch caught this news item about how Nashville residents defeated an English only measure and…well, go on with your bad self Nashville!

That reminds me of a post I’ve been meaning to put up.

I recently met with a certain Rhonda Broussard, Founder and Executive Director of St. Louis Language Immersion Schools, to learn more about their program and opportunities for adult education within it. Despite the multi-state and multi-community efforts to declare English the only language folks can communicate through here in America, the world we live in is multi-lingual and all of us need to re-think that if we are going to fully participate in all things global.

Language immersion programs improve overall academic achievement and enhance brain development, memory and cognitive learning. While most public schools begin teaching a second language in middle school, Language Immersion Schools start off teaching that second language in kindergarten…in all classes so that children learn through that second language.

But it is never to soon to get your language on – C-Money and this bitch are looking into the adult programs SLLIS will offer. A bitch studied Latin in school and has always longed to study French and Spanish.

So, a tip of the Afro to Nashville!

And a thank you too for reminding a bitch that language doesn’t have to be English-only to unite us...indeed, the world we live in demands that we re-think our approach to learning new languages so that we can give our communities the tools we need to communicate and grow.

Congratulations and best of luck to St. Louis Language Immersion Schools!

22 comments:

Rileysdtr said...

I am a firm believer that "English-only" mandates are a very short walk from "No Irish Need Apply" and that language drives understanding (think for a moment about literal translations of common foreign phrases - HOW they translate tells one a great deal about culture, way of life, and means of thought). But there is something poetic about English being the common language of the U.S. English is an odd Germanic polyglot that absorbs words, phrases, and pronounciations from all around the World. It constantly evolves in a vibrant, rolling mish-mash of sound, kind of like we do as Americans.

Anyone who has ever tried to read Chaucer ("Olde English" at its best) or even Shakespeare knows how unintelligible our native tongue was 600 years ago, while a Polish-speaking time-traveler could be popped out into the main square in Krakow and communicate (confused but) just fine.

English is a melting pot. Sound familiar?

Dusty said...

English only is bs and a way to segregate people.

pluky said...

For a little historical context, at the time this country was founded, there were more native speakers of German in the population than any other language.

GayProf said...

Some fifty years ago, my grandparents were convinced by the schools and local social services not to pass on Spanish to my father because it would supposedly hinder his future success. It was a decision that they said they later regretted. So, when it came time for me to attend school, I had to learn Spanish from scratch.

Why the U.S. is so opposed to basic learning, in general, is kinda confusing to me. Children, btw, who learn a second language before around 12 or 13 will also speak both languages without an accent in either.

Hypatia said...

Latin is fabulous preparation for learning other languages later in life. I know we can never reproduce that squishy-brained receptiveness to knowledge that we have as kids, but Latin gives you some fundamental structures that are very useful for adult language learning.
I work as an ESL instructor at a large public university with a majority immigrant student body. The degree to which people's own languages enrich their use of English cannot be overstated. This country's language, like its culture, is hybrid and multifaceted, and that is its greatest strength.
On a related note, the moment I knew that I was going to vote, not just against McCain, but emphatically FOR Obama was when he stated categorically that bilingual education was important and necessary, that the more languages one knows, the better one knows them all, and that being multilingual was a desirable goal for everyone.
Didn't mean this to turn into such a ramble-- what I really meant to say, Shark-fu, was that I think it's fantastic that you're considering learning another language. We all should. Rock on with your bad self!

Dragon said...

I completely agree with the fact schools should be teaching another language starting very early in schools. But also feel that anyone coming from another country should have to learn english too to be a citizen here. Same as we would have to learn the language of another country to be there.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Bravo Nashville.
Unfortunately, I suspect that "english only" propositions would pass in a majority of backwoods American cities.

berdawn said...

Thanks for the reminder about this election! I'm so pleased to hear about the outcome.
pax from another former Latin student.

Greg said...

I always get all bubbly hearing about people strongly in support of multi-lingualism. I've always enjoyed studying new languages, but it took me a long time to realize the ways that understanding multiple languages (esp. from different language families) really enhances cognitive flexibility. Yay multi-lingualism! Down with ANY single-language-only measures!

xobekim said...

I've never made two identical posts to two different blogs before. But today, lady, you and Pa Rocks Ramble, http://pa-rocks-ramble.blogspot.com/, were mind melded. So here goes:

We are in an era of global competition. If our children are going to be able to compete they must be able to communicate.

I recall when the knuckleheads threatened an elderly woman who came to America with her husband from Italy.

Alone in their small grocery store in Kansas City she’d occasionally let the Italian lingo slip out. The knuckleheads said no more or violence and arson would visit them.

Back then we called the knuckleheads the Ku Klux Klan.
Hate mongering is hate mongering and learning is good. You are on point.

Anonymous said...

Their web site says nothing about adult education.

For French, there's always activities with the Alliance Francaise, classes, films, social events.

Chaucer can be read with mild effort by those with a good vocabulary, familiarity with archaic usages seen in Shakespeare and/or King James Bible, some imagination concerning spelling, and a willingness (and knowledge, from language study or vocal study) to pronounce vowels without dipthongs. There's a learning curve in pronunciation and in ability to guess the word's modern equivalent, but it is surprising how many words have survived for 650 years. For example: female external genitalia: Chaucer, queynte; now, cunt. Term was not derogatory in Chaucer's usage. Chaucerian English dialect was the direct ancestor of modern English. Other regional dialect of that period is harder to read, eg, Gawain and the Green Knight.

Fluent speakers of Flemish, which is a Low German descendant (as opposed to modern German, which is a High German descendant), can understand Old English such as Beowulf. This isn't too surprising, since the Angles and Saxons migrated from the Belgium, Germany, Denmark coast to England (Angle-land).

Am I a geek, or what?

NancyP

hannah said...

As a fellow female hockey (and Blues) fan, I'm always so amused when you include the NHL in your posts. . . especially your comment awhile back about still trying to wrap your head around the shoot outs.

I'm watching the Super Skills right now; are you?

xpityparteex said...

Speak what you know! That's what I say. America is a melting pot and we forget that.





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Joan P. said...

I am in a bilingual, bicultural family. My daughter is in a language immersion school. But I think you are confusing the issues of promoting bilingualism and the "English only" measures. The laws are about not spending tax money on printing government documents in a few foreign languages. They have nothing to do with the teaching of foreign languages. I speak fluent esperanto, and would love to see an "English or esperanto only" measure, but anything else discriminates against those who don't speak the few foreign languages that are chosen to be translated. We can't translate everything into all languages, so let's just stick with one language please. The UN spends about a third of its budget on translation. We can't afford that.

Greg said...

Whatever English-only laws and English-only education are spun to be about, they ultimately devalue all other languages, and by extension cultures (as language -- including dialects of a single language -- is arguably the strongest symbolic system of a culture). Of course we can't translate everything into every language, but we can promote literacy in the most prominent languages represented in a given community. We could even -- heaven forbid -- spend more tax dollars on offering free ESL classes to help those linguistically disadvantaged in an English-dominant community. And honestly, I'd rather my tax dollars go to translation rather than something like, oh say... "defense."

And about that melting pot idea, I've personally never cared for the metaphor because of its entailments of inevitable assimilation. How about valuing diversity in all things rather than aspiring to a society in which everyone attempts conformity to a single norm (and inevitably fails because, really, the mainstream is an illusion)?

Sorry to talk at other commentors, but these are issues that I feel quite strongly about.

KJ said...

I suspect that "english only" propositions would pass in a majority of backwoods American cities.

Like Massachussetts? (viz. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/09/25/english_period/)

Though the Mass. initiative was not intended for government documents, but for bilingual education, it can happen ANYWHERE.

Since the Nashville initiative was meant to target only "official Metro Nashville business", there were some questions about what that would entail. Certainly, emergency services would be limited in an area with a burgeoning Hispanic population; not to mention the largest Kurdish population in the US lives here, a group so large they had a polling station for the Iraqi election a few years back.

Additionally, any bilingual services that Metro provides are provided by employees *who already work for them*. That may not include contract translation services for print materials which can be tricker, but the phone service (211 for healthcare info, or 511 for traffic info etc) is a contracted service that doesn't require a direct hire by Metro. It's outsourced (like so much else, sigh).

And finally, the question of American Sign Language being "English" was raised as well, since it is not just a "form" of English and has its own structure, grammar and so forth. Wouldn't *that* have been a kick in the pants!

The proposal was brought forth by Eric Crafton, who demonstrated its "need" by speaking at a council meeting in Japanese, and saying that it wasn't "illegal" for him to do that. I didn't do any follow up to see if they had to hire a translator for it, or if he translated it himself (like Metro does now, anyway!!)

And, Joan P., I'll wager that the money spent by Metro government employees on printing out cute kitten pictures or emailing their grandchildren whilst at work or downloading American flag waving applications or checking the weather every 10 minutes for Snow! Snow! Snow! would SO outweigh the funds allocated to print documents in Spanish, Kurdish, Chinese, German, Japanese etc etc... esp. when the concept of "print on demand" is acknowledged.

I live in Nashville and am thankful the measure didn't pass, though I was 1 of only 98 people in my district who voted against Amendment 1 (out of 333 votes cast total). I am hopeful that Eric Crafton will go slink away into the muck and mire of right-wing hate politics, where he can spread his wings and fully douchebaggify (or ballsackify, if you will).

KJ said...

An update - funding sources for the English-only initiative were made public today and almost all of the funding came from *outside* of Nashville - hell, even outside of the *state* - see Tennessean article for more information here:

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20090127/NEWS0206/90127008

Those figures again, folks: "Of the total raised, $82,500 was given by ProEnglish of Arlington, Virginia. The outside group, which wanted to use Nashville as a test case, invested all but $1,961.76 of the amount raised."

A fucking TEST CASE?! Go test case your OWN fucking state, morons.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 1st generation American of Mexican descent and I'm proud to say I speak English and Spanish fluently (not Spanglish). I love speaking Spanish when possible but would prefer English as the official language here in the United States since it would be the common denominator for people, government, business, EVERYTHING to efficiently communicate. I think persons & groups of people are just shooting themselves in feet by not learning English since it only opens up more opportunities for a better future for themselves and their families. An example is my family. My parents came to California in the 1960s. Back then families could get by with only the father working. Since my father had to provide for his family and join the workforce he had to learn English. He did ok, not great but ok. He bought a home, sent us to school, is now retired and his house is paid-off. The American Dream at its best. My mom never left the house to work, she did do a great job in raising us. She never really learned English, us kids would always translate at stores, on products, off the TV. Thank God nothing ever happened to my father and she would be forced to raise 4 kids as a single mom. Her lack of English would pretty much limit her chances of employment in anything besides menial labor. And as far as learning foreign languages goes. I think its awsome since knowledge IS power and the more you know of everything the stronger/better person/citizen you become. We all pay with American dollars correct. It makes commerce efficient. What if everyone paid for good/services in their country of origin's currency? It would be possible right? But not fun.
Solo mis dos €

P.S. I generally don't read blogs since they are like opinions, everyone has one. But your's has a very intresting perspective.

Valkyrie607 said...

Bonne chance cherie!

Language Translation said...

I don't feel english only is going to be of any help. Infact with a increasingly integrated world and rise of BRIC countries exposure to diffrent languages can prove vital.

Amy said...

I don't believe that everyone really gets it. Only two people on this blog have actually said something with sense. No one is saying that in your private time, home or other, that you can not speak any language you want. To communicate with everyone, everyone should know the same language. To even become a citizen of America, one must know how to speak, write, and read basic english. Why shouldn't everyone know english, wouldn't that broaden the oppurtunities that are avialible for everyone. I think that it is outragious that I have to learn another language to get a job in America, just because some people refuse to learn how to speak english. It's not that the option for them to learn isn't avialible, but why learn to speak it when this country is going to bend over backwards and spend money that this country doesn't even have to print things in spanish. That's the case why not print everything in all the languages, which is over 300. Please be real, and think of what is the big picture!!!

Shark-fu said...

Amy, I don't think you really get it.

#1 There are far more than 300 spoken languages in the world.

#2 Early learning of additional languages at school does not translate into not learning English.

#3 We are trailing far behind the rest of the world on this and that's not a good thing.

So, rather than fear expanding knowledge because we fear losing a national identity maybe we should embrace learning MORE...and give our children the opportunity to compete and communicate at a modern level.

Please be real, and think of the big picture.

'Tis a shame that so many people think adding a language requires dropping one...

...but Langauge immersion schools prove that theory wrong every day.