Mary Grabar on why being force-fed the language of an invader isn’t such a hot idea.
Obama, the Harvard-educated lawyer, betrays his own leftist objectives and profound lack of intellectualism. Like his radical friend, education professor and leader of the former Weathermen Bill Ayers, he does not value learning for its own sake, but sees it as a political tool, another way to use education to advance social goals. Obama’s view of foreign language acquisition is the opposite of the one of conservative parents and professors who have advocated foreign language study for the benefit of the student’s intellectual advancement. Obama, the dour schoolmaster, tells us we “must” learn the language of the border-hoppers who have invaded our country. I think I know what it felt like when my aunt was forced to learn Hungarian.
Our daughter is bilingual. It’s a wonderful gift to give a child if you can. Sadly, schools in the U.S. tend to wait until kids are just too old to absorb language naturally to start offering foreign language courses. People like me who learn as adults will forever have that “funny accent” in the other language. Being bilingual is a big advantage for individuals.
It’s a really bad idea for countries, though. Grabar nails it here:
Obama needs to be reminded that the United States is not in Europe. In a country this large, with a historically diverse ethnic population, language becomes a unifier. The fact that English is the one language spoken in a country of this size provides evidence of our independence and unity. The acquisition of a second language here, consequently, is done neither out of necessity nor under duress. Rather, a foreign language is studied for its own sake — an endeavor that signals a sure sign of higher education and a higher standard of living.