Date: Sat, 9 Sep 1995 10:00:05 -0700


Subject: Re: English Only

I have a major problem with this English Only thread/t, and it has to do

with my four years in the early '70s as Administrator and Linguist for

the Northern Cheyenne Bilingual/Bicultural Education Program in Montana.

Not only is English Only an insult to the original inhabitants of this

country (except for administrative purposes?), it endangers their very

way of being in the world. As one Native American told me, "If we had

known then what we know now, we would have set up STRICTER immigration

laws!" And then, had they set up Native Language Only laws, so that by

their very speech the immigrants were always mindful of respect for life

and environment and mystery, unlearning their ancient European fear of

the forest and learning to go there for spiritual insight, unlearning

linear time and relearning curved cycles -- wow, what a different place

this would be! Problem is, if we lock English Only into place now, with

its insistence on static nouns and things instead of paying attention to

dynamic processes and relationships ("how can you tell the dancers from

the dance?"), I'm afraid our planet is doomed. The most chilling

statistic I ever heard (to nonsensically jump from language to culture)

is that if today China decided to use toilet paper the way we do, it

would take only about a year to deplete the rest of the planet's forests!

Finally, back to the comments below: they make so much 'surface sense',

true, but only from a MONOLINGUAL perspective! "You'll only confuse

them." There's a pernicious fallacy underlying this which analogizes

bilingualism to schizophrenia or something, that pathologizes that which

is normally quite healthy to those who have it. Effective language

learners often create new personalities for themselves in their new

languages (primarily to take the heat off their 'ego' for being grown up

but sounding like a 3 yr-old) -- what we can call POSITIVE multiple

personalities (again, usually pathologized in a MONOLINGUAL culture,

which insists on us ignoring the obvious and acting as though we have a

MONOPERSONALITY. The difference between healthy multiple personality

people and those with a disorder is that in the latter, the multiples

don't communicate, are closed off from each other, while in the former

they can easily pass information and knowledge to their other

personalities -- what normally happens to those who know more than one

language and culture.

Enuf. --Moonhawk

On Fri, 8 Sep 1995, Tom Uharriet wrote:

We all learn more of our own languages by studying others'. Whatever

the law, we should all learn to speak outside of our own back yards.

As far as legislation goes, I believe that an English Only law could

help immigrants to integrate. Sometimes a little added motivation is

a good thing. I am particularly thinking of the children. In the

name of fairness, we have been seeking to teach them in their own

language so that we would not leave them out of the education system.

The result is that we teach the standard subjects and leave them out

of the whole Engllish speaking society. Until they learn English,

they will always be as foreigners (even if they and their parents

were born here). Living in the US without being taught English

certainly hurts them more than letting other academic subjects suffer

for a few semesters.

Some argue that theaching them English should be limited to their ESL

(English as a Second Language) class. However, it is clear that

total imersion in a language is the best way to teach it. It is

learned much faster, much more completely, and much more

permanantly. The entire educational system breaks down for these

disadvantaged children when we drag out the English learning while

teaching other subjects in other languages.

Tom Uharriet

Springville, Utah