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February 01, 2009

Learning a foreign language

David B. Smith’s letter (1/27) expresses a fundamental misunderstanding of teaching foreign language. Having the teacher speak the language of the student is in fact a hindrance, not an advantage. I speak from the personal experience of teaching English as a second language to students of more than 10 native tongues.

Learning a foreign language is an uneven process that takes more time for some, less for others. For those interested, there is abundant evidence that the majority of immigrant households in the U.S. speaks English as the primary language at home after the second or third generation.

We have a lot bigger fish to fry than the imagined “cultural invasion” mentioned by Mr. Smith. The convenience of whipping up hysteria over immigrants is a serious distraction from those issues that we have seen repeated throughout history.

Tom Owens
Kansas City

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