View Full Version : What if 'English Only' Isn't Wrong? (WSJ)

08-24-2010, 02:55 PM
An excerpt from the WSJ article (http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB1000142405274870400210457529060242321 2366.html) by Evan R. Goldstein, a staff editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education:
On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama was asked about foreign-language education. He responded emphatically, calling it "embarrassing" that most Americans are monolingual. Being able to speak a foreign language makes you "so much more employable," he said. "We should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age."

I recently telephoned Dennis Baron, professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and read him that quote. He laughed, saying that Mr. Obama is not likely to sway many minds. Americans are still stubbornly—even proudly—monolingual, more concerned with protecting English than with learning another tongue.

This attitude is reflected in the classroom. Between 1997 and 2008, the percentage of elementary schools offering foreign-language instruction decreased to 25% from 31%; in middle schools, that figure dropped to 58% from 75%, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics...

In 2006, George W. Bush established the National Security Language Initiative, a $114 million program to encourage the study of high-priority languages, such as Arabic and Farsi.

Marty Abbott, director of education at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, says, "We thought it was our Sputnik moment..." Today, Ms. Abbott sounds dejected: "We have made no dramatic strides." Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, says morosely that too many Americans believe "that foreign language education is superfluous."

Maybe it is. Advances in machine translation, coupled with the global dominance of English—by some estimates, about one-quarter of the world's population can to a certain extent communicate in English—has led some observers to question the necessity of learning a language other than English.
To read more, click here (http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB1000142405274870400210457529060242321 2366.html).