05 October 2005

Bilingual? Baloney!

"Puerto Rico is a bilingual country."

No, it isn't.

How can a country say it's "bilingual" when it teaches a second language, in this case English, for at least 12 years--at least 12 years--and most of its people are barely Tarzanian in the use of that language?

There are, of course, dissenting views, like those expressed some time ago (one on a different subject) by a commenter to The Jenius. Here are Edith Asher's remarks, exactly as she chose to leave them:

Bla, Bla, Bla... Borring. AND most add That's NOT true!

Wow! Big deal being bilingual. LOL Bobo! We all puertorrican are bilinguals.

Uh, no, Edith. Based on you, not all of us are bilingual. And with you as an example, there may even be doubts about Our literacy.

According to linguists, near-native fluency in a second or additional language, defined as being able to speak conversationally, read a newspaper and write a personal letter, can be achieved through instruction in an average of 3 years.

Near-native fluency in three years...

So what the hell is happening in Puerto Rico where four TIMES that amount of time is invested for barely a third of the expected result? Many, if not most, people in Puerto Rico cannot really read a newspaper in English, couldn't begin to write a letter in English and can barely carry on a simple conversation in English. This is a far far cry from the bilingual and multilingual fluency one often encounters in the Caribbean and Europe, where mastery of 3-4 languages is common.

Look at the admittedly limited examples above: Nine basic orthographical errors and two basic grammatical ones in 22 words, an "average" of one mistake every two words. This from someone who blogs in English and truly, truly believes she is bilingual. Delusion aside, how have We come to such a sorry state of affairs?

Incompetence and hypocrisy.

Despite The Jenius's opinion that many teachers would serve Us better as fast-food workers, the full burden of incompetence in this English as a non-second language debacle lies upon an educational system that reeks of stupidity and has done so for decades. Rather than start from scratch and focus on what works, The Fools (of which "bobo" could be a translation) have chosen "tweaks" and "techniques" and "textbooks" and "training", but never ever ever have they actually considered teaching.

Hypocrisy: Puerto Ricans say--oh yes We do!--that learning English is very important. But then We harass those who want to learn it, cheat Our way through the stupid processes that try to occupy Our time about its importance and even try to legislate it out of usage if not existence. (Yes, The Jenius knows this is a political issue, but everything in Puerto Rico is a political issue except water skiing and onanism.) We act is if English were a denial of "Self" in pathetic imitation of the only major country on this planet that actually believes that knowing one language is better than knowing two or three. We see "English only" in the U.S. and instead of rising above it effortlessly by learning more than Our northern brethren, We play "monkey see, monkey do" and aim for "Spanish only."

And an aside: It is pathetic--let Me repeat: pa-the-tic--to see statehooders in leadership positions whose English language skills make Edith seem like the second coming of Shakespeare's editor. Especially when you find that the most eloquent and accurate English speakers tend to be Independence Party leaders. Allow Me to clarify that the point is not accent, but precision: statehood "leaders" often have the first in spades AND lack the second as if they'd been hit by a spade upside the coconut. Pun intended.

Solution: Let's scrap the "12 Year Plan for Wasting Time in English" in favor of a 4-year plan that gives conversational English one year, reading English two years and writing it one year. Have the students start in 4th grade and complete the sequence by the 7th grade or start in the 7th grade and finish in the 10th. Those that start early would most likely gain advantages in acquiring learning skills and knowledge, but in any case, the 4-year period keeps the system, teachers and students focused on results, not on just marking time.

You say it won't work? In Japan, Spain, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and other countries, students routinely take 2 year courses in English and achieve proficiency levels equal to that of U.S. eighth-grade students. We need to achieve college-level proficiency in English to occupy Our rightful place on the global stage and The Jenius is convinced that We could do it in as little as four years of instruction.

IF We change the system. IF We stop the hypocrisy.


The Jenius Has Spoken.

1 comment:

arenasandpr said...

puerto rico is not bilingual.