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Letters to the Editor

Learning language

February 23, 2007

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To the editor:

I am responding to your article in the Feb. l9 issue of the Journal-World regarding the challenges schools face in trying to teach English as a second language to foreign students.

Instead of using up precious resources and time, consider this: It has been amply demonstrated that most children have an innate ability to learn a foreign language even if they are put in an environment where only the language of the host country is spoken - English in this case.

I can testify that the "sink or swim" method works wonders. When at age 8, I was forced to leave my native country and was thrust into a classroom where the only language spoken was French, which bore no similarity to my native German, there were no programs to help me "assimilate." Not understanding a word of what was said in class was difficult at first, but the totally forced immersion worked wonders. By the end of the school year I spoke French fluently, and I know that my case is by no means unique.

It has always been my contention that we would be doing non-English speakers a huge favor by letting them absorb English on their own rather than treating them differently from their classmates. No other country makes these accommodations for their foreign guests or immigrants, and there is no reason why we should.

Eva Edmands,

Lawrence

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

Sorry, Eva, but it really doesn't work that way. The fact is, most adults, with proper instruction, will learn a new language much faster than children will. The difference is that most adults will just never achieve the same native proficiency that a child can. But without proper language instruction, a child can suffer several years of diminished learning because they are struggling with a new language.

imastinker 7 years, 10 months ago

Bozo -

are you calling her a liar? It seems she has more experience than you or I in the matter.

She the would have had to learn english too - so she's done it more than once.

May Soo 7 years, 10 months ago

Eva, I agree with you on this, I had to learn two new languages when I left my native country between the ages of 8 & 15. I attended the ESL at Lawrence High School but it didn't help me much, instead I was being put in a learning disabilities class because I had a reading leavel of an 8th grader when I was in 10th grade. How I learn the language was not because of the ESL class, it was from my contacts with the native students and outside of the ESL class, what the ESL class offered me was a chance for me to speak my native languages to my classmates each day.

sinedie 7 years, 9 months ago

I won't expose my view on the issue itself, but I, like Eva, can provide an account of my own experience.

I was put in a situation at the age of 9 where I was going to elementary school here in Kansas, but did not speak a word of English. The school offered ESL (English as a Second Language) classes which I did not find helpful. It was only due to the immersive aspect of being inundated by the language and surrounded by native speakers that I was able to learn as quickly as I did.

I will admit, however, that it has been proven that children (usually under the age of 13-15) are far more capable of learning a foreign language quickly than adults. For example, though both of my parents received extensive instruction, they were unable to learn nearly as quickly, in part because they were both in situations (with family and friends) where they could speak their native tongue.

BorderRat 7 years, 9 months ago

Why do foreign born National Hockey League players speak better English than U.S. born National Basketball Association players?

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