COMMUNITY COMMENTARY:

Regarding Glendale Unified School District’s dual-language program and the comment by Carlos Mejia of Glendale in his letter “English should be the only language taught” (Mailbag, Friday): The notion that a child will be confused and unable to be proficient in any language if that child is taught a foreign language alongside English is, and has been shown in numerous studies, wrong.

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, learning a second language at an early age has a positive effect on intellectual growth and mental development leaves a child with more flexibility in thinking and improves a child’s understanding of his own native language.

Add to that the cultural and social awareness and openness that comes from learning a second language and learning about the culture that comes with it, and a child already has a distinct advantage over other children, and that is before it comes to the future and the benefits of bilingualism in getting a job.

I think much of the dislike for the Foreign Language Academy Glendale dual-language program is coming from a misunderstanding of its purpose, which is keeping some people from looking at the aforementioned benefits.

I am choosing here not to assume cultural bigotry and xenophobia on the part of certain News-Press readers. Some people hear “dual language” and probably think of classes meant to coddle non-English speakers in this, a primarily (and officially) English-speaking nation, teaching them in their own language to ease them into English. And, while that sort of program is debatable separate from this, the current foreign language academy programs offer Spanish/English at Edison Elementary School, Armenian/English at Jefferson Elementary School, Korean/English at Keppel Elementary School and German/English at Franklin Elementary School, and are about educating both the foreign-language-speaking child and the English-speaking child to be fluent in both and, in the long run, to have the extra intellectual growth and mental development that comes with bilingualism at an early age.

To suggest that these programs are being imposed on the children is accurate only inasmuch as any of us parents, or our state or national governments for that matter, are imposing the general public education on them.

A program such as this, which adds to the curriculum already offered and helps promote the intelligence and cognitive skills of our children is nothing but a plus.

My previously mentioned assumptions aside, to suggest that in elementary school the only language should be English without any real qualification is xenophobic and comes across as culturally narrow-minded if not outright bigoted.

The world is not just the United States, is not just California, is not just Glendale, and even those three political units are more multicultural than that statement about the only language would seem to recognize. Each new generation will need more tools at its disposal to face our global economy and worldwide society. I would suggest that we would be better off with many more of these Foreign Language Academy Glendale programs (and similar programs in other cities as well) so rather than imposing English-only onto the world, we would be more open to more of the world’s people; after all, as far as native speakers go, English isn’t even the No. 1 language in the world.


 ROBERT BLACK is a Glendale resident.

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