A woman named Leslie e-mailed me asking me to write a response to a newspaper in Oregon regarding a Spanish Immersion program. Here is my response, in full, and abridged.
I just posted to your blog (http://blog.oregonlive.com/myoregon/post.html) a 300-word version of a letter I wrote in support of the West Linn/ Wilsonville School Committee’s decision to maintain the Spanish Immersion program.
I enclose and attach a copy of a 150-word version that I hope you will be able to print. Would it be possible to have it appear before the school committee meets again on Wednesday meeting?
Barbara Zurer Pearson
Supporting Spanish Immersion for Our Children
Last year West Linn Schools had the wisdom and parental support to start a Spanish Immersion program. Such programs enrich the educational experience and cultural perspective of the mainstream children who participate and send an important message to speakers of minority languages that their language and culture are valuable. Such programs are highly successful because they take advantage of the special mental equipment young children have for learning languages. They are both more effective and more cost-effective than high school language programs. When carefully planned, early immersion programs need not cost more than the programs they replace.
Even for the kindergartener, however, language learning takes effort,—and above all, it takes consistency and continuity. As a linguist and life-long student of language learning in children, I urge the school committee not to abandon its commitment to providing the best education possible for their children and to continue the Spanish Immersion. (150)
Barbara Zurer Pearson, Ph.D.
Research Associate, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Author of Raising a Bilingual Child (Random House, 2008)