Teaching people to speak English in America can be just plain mean.

Is it wrong to expect American students to know English?/Ryn Gargulinski

After all, some English language classes in Arizona segregate the students and thus riddle them with low self-esteem, according to two articles penned by a pair of University of Arizona faculty members and a graduate student.

These articles, co-authored by faculty Cecilia Rios-Aguilar and Luis C. Moll with student Manuel González-Canche, were released last week by the by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Every time we turn around, something somewhere is violating someone’s civil rights. Bring on a lawsuit.

It’s amazing we can even continue to function as a society, if you call us functioning.

Before we move on to the full horror of the English learning experience, we must point out that no, students are not forced into hot, windowless chambers listening to incessant tape recordings repeating the phrase, “My aunt owns a pencil sharpener.”

All they are being asked to do is learn a non-native language, which is a daunting task for anyone, but one that is possible with dedication, immersion, constant study and work, work, work.

Maybe they don’t like the work.

Alas, the work could be much too difficult – and, according to the articles, damaging to their psyches.

Maybe students read TV mags instead of homework?/Ryn Gargulinski

Among the UA team’s key findings:

* English learners were not proficient in English after one year in the new state-mandated English Language Development, or ELD, block program.

* 85 percent of teachers said that for the English learners, being segregated was “harmful” to their education.

* Given the four-hour block, English learners were placed at a disadvantage for successfully completing the necessary coursework to graduate from high school or pursue higher education.

Here are our responses to the findings:

* Not proficient in English after one year?

Did the students do their homework? Did they attempt to speak English outside the classroom in social situations or simply rely on repeating back “My cat is yellow, how are you?” to the teacher? Heck, some native speakers aren’t even proficient in English after 20 years.

* Segregating students learning English from people who already know English is “harmful” to the non-English speakers’ education?

Perhaps it would be better, then, to lump non-English speakers in a classroom full of proficient English speakers and just hope for the best. How absurd to put students learning a foreign language in their own room where they can learn in peace. Please put them with the general student body and let them fall behind instead. Better yet, make the other students learn not to speak in English when the non-native speakers are around.

* A four-hour block of foreign language classes is too treacherous?

Full immersion would be English only all day – the four-hour block lets students off easy.

But it seems there is no easy answer to all this guff – or no easy way to live without people constantly crying about being wronged, even when these wrongs stem from offering a program for teaching people English.

We gotta love America. Or at least we used to.

Please note: Yes, this article was written with sarcasm – and also with a high level of frustration. I have always been on the bandwagon for a need for a national language in America and yes, that language should be English. My second vote is for French and third would be Swahili.


What do you think?

Are English language programs forcing students into undue hardship and segregation?

Should we all speak Swahili instead?