Again Please, In English

Tom Maguire, JustOneMinute, July 08, 2008

Andrew Leonard of Salon gives us Obama’s thoughts (presented at a town hall meeting) about bilingual education:

You know, I don’t understand when people are going around worrying about, “We need to have English-only.” They want to pass a law, “We want English-only.”

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.

Whoa. Reporting live from the United Kingdom, I have been assured that the typical Brit does not speak many (i.e., any) languages other than English and a smattering of American. Apparently Obama is aware that culturally, Britain is not part of Europe, and he assumes we know it as well.

But the real comedy gold is this:

Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English—they’ll learn English—you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.

Really? Will that help me or my children communicate with the immigrants from Vietnam, or China, or Poland? Who knew? Table 4 can help Obama’s staffers figure out that if slightly more than half of recent immigrants to the Unite States are from Latin America, than sightly less than half are from other parts of the world.

Obama talked about this during the Univision debate last February. Frankly, I think teaching foreign languages at an earlier age in school makes lots of sense, but I wonder whether are public schools are doing so great a job on the Three Rs that we need to expand their mission.

LEFT UNREPORTED: How many languages does Barack speak? And how are his kids (ages 10 and 7) doing with their Spanish, or do they also embarrass him as the rest of us rubes do? I’d hate to think this is one more “do as I say” scenario similar to Barack’s no-smoking aspiration.

BONUS QUERY: Should that be “us rubes” or “we rubes”?


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