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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bi-Lingualism Must Be Anti-American, Or Something, Right?

Everyone in the land-of-the-willfully-ignorant ( also known as the conservative Republican media )seem to have this problem with Barack Obama's speech about learning other languages.

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they’ll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

You know, it’s embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], “Merci beaucoup.” Right?

You know, no, I’m serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get ajob. You are so much more employable. You can be part of international business. So we should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age, because children will actually learn a foreign language easier when they’re 5, or 6, or 7 than when they’re 46, like me.

I took two years of Spanish in high-school and two years of Russian in college. The only phrases I've managed to retain have to do with ordering a beer and asking where the restroom is.

John Derbyshire @ NRO seems to think that Americans are just too dumb to learn.

The cold fact is that absent exceptional circumstances — the most common of which is, total immersion at a receptive age — not many human beings can learn another language. Oh, you can learn enough to stumble along and get by on a trip abroad, but if you can attain fluency in a language not your own, without those exceptional circumstances, you are an unusually smart and gifted person.

Is it really that Americans - or anyone - are incapable of learning or that Mr. Derbyshire wasn't able to?

The Weekly Standard went to that faithful fallback position and called Obama a 'snob'. I mean, come on, only elitist assholes speak anything except English.

I've spoken with several parents who have kids that are in kindergarden thru 3rd grade about this issue. It seems that they are against it based exclusively on the fact that they did poorly in foreign language classes in school. Isn't the point of being a parent making sure that your children have better opportunities than you did?

John Amato @ CrooksandLiars sums this up well:

What, my good pal John Derbyshire had a tough time learning another language? Well, that’s not surprising. And since most Europeans speak many languages, are they just smarter? I don’t think so. It’s because all the countries do so much business together and are so close in proximity that it makes sense all around.

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