A Separate Discipline

Teaching English to our newest immigrants is too important to remain scattered in various disciplines throughout the Los Angeles Community College District.

According to California Tomorrow, an organization that documents demographic trends, 5.3 million people in California are foreign-born--20% of the population.

It is imperative that they learn to read, write, and speak English if they are going to rise above entry-level jobs.

To meet this demand the Board of Governors of the Community Colleges as well as the State Academic Senate have mandated that English as a Second Language is a separate discipline to be taught by instructors who have received the specialized training this field requires.

A body of intensive research in language acquisition has exploded in the last 25 years.

This has resulted in the formation of the international organization, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, whose members include outstanding research scholars, administrators, testing specialists and classroom teachers.

English as a Second Language continues to evolve.

It is similar to other fields that have grown out of parent disciplines.

Thirty years ago microbiology was a fledgling field in bacteriology. Now it is a separate field of study. Respiratory therapy was not taught as a separate field until sometime in the 1950s.

Before that any knowledge in this area was incorporated into nursing and medicine. Mathematics gave birth to computer science over 40 years ago.

Today all three of these fields are taught as distinct disciplines by specialists in the field.

Teaching English to speakers of other languages is an academic field requiring special programs for its students and special professional preparation and education for its practitioners.

It recognizes that there are differences between first- and second-language learning. The time has come to recognize that a specialty in this area will help to meet the highly specialized needs of our growing immigrant population to help them become better citizens.

JEANNE POLAK

Van Nuys

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
59°