From a reader:
Seems to me you are missing his bigger point… English Only laws are completely unnecessary. As a Mexican immigrant who came here at four years old I can tell you that the younger the immigrant the more easily he will learn English. There are very, very few kids who come to this country and have trouble learning our language.
The real issue is with adults… its tough learning a new language as an adult (I think we can agree there). Whether we should force adults to learn English while applying for residency or citizenship is a debate that should be had, but forcing the English Only laws that simply make life harder for people is another issue altogether.
Take comfort that Hispanic kids (and all non-English speaking kids) will easily learn our common language. Just like the Germans, Italians, Russians etc… before us, this false argument of English Only will be made moot by the passage time as it has always.
Obama is right on this one… worry more about teaching our kids as many languages as possible and worry less about the sanctity of our language (it will be fine).
Me: I don’t think so. Whatever the merits of English-only laws and bilingual education, this reader is missing my point. Obama’s switch from talking about bilingualism to talking about the need to teach kids a second language is still a total red-herring. Again, I agree with Obama that more kids should be taught a second language. But I also believe we should have clean drinking water, really great aircraft carriers and that squirrels should be required to wear pants. None of that has much to do with English-only laws and bilingual education. Yet, when Obama invokes second-language instruction instead of the pantsless squirrel menace, people think there’s a connection there because Obama’s so charismatic and the word “language” comes up in both subjects. It is an attempt on Obama’s part to sound like he’s bravely tackling the “real issue” while in reality he’s bringing up a completely separate one while simultaneously implying that the very real issues of bilingual education and English-only laws are phony (thus pandering to the bilingual lobby while sounding like he’s keeping it real).
The reader may agree with Obama and disagree with me on the question of their phoniness, but the “need” to teach more second-languages doesn’t support his or Obama’s position at all.