Friday, June 29, 2007

English only?

Should we push English as a national language in the USA ? What exactly would that mean? Would we only allow people who can read and write English to get a driver's license? (BTW, I heard a funny story from a student this year who took the written exam for her driver's license in German, but the translation was so bad that she failed the exam. She decided to take the test in English, and then she passed.) Should we get rid of all bilingual education programs? Should we break up communities of Chinese speakers in Pasadena, Spanish speakers in LA, and so on and make sure that store owners speak English only? In fact, it seems the opposite is happening. Police as well as store clerks are being taught, for instance, to speak Spanish in order to better serve their communities and clientele. It does seem true that you're likely to get farther economically and socio-politically in this country if you can use English effectively. Witness Arnold Schwarzenegger, from 'Pumping Iron' to 'Terminator' to Governor of California! He couldn't have done it without commanding the language. Language is power.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Use it, or lose it!

This blog is for all students and teachers of the many Englishes that are spoken and written around the world. I'm American, but I am often told by my Asian ESL students that I look 'soooo Japanese.' Sometimes they and others seem worried that they travelled thousands of miles to the USA, only to be taught English by a non-native speaker. But since there are so many Englishes spoken, should it matter that I'm a 'native'? Sometimes, non-native speakers know the grammar of a foreign language better than they know that of their native tongue.

In addition, this blog is for anyone who wants to comment on learning or teaching English as a foreign language and to post experiences, observations, queries, etc. about the many Englishes that have come to represent the 'international language.' A Japanese professor colleague from Tokyo University once told me at a conference that the 'real' international language is not English, but 'broken English.' He seemed to have a point there. People were essentially communicating in English, even though it was not standard American or British English.

What then is the best way to teach English, especially to the many students who have been using 'broken' English (Spanglish/Japanglish, etc.) for years? If students can communicate effectively in English, does it really matter that they mispronounce many of their words, drop s's and articles, or use present perfect when they should use simple past?

Inspiring students!