Saturday, August 18, 2007

English Only for ESL Students

I'm not very fond of the term "English Only." In my home state of California, "English Only" used to be (and to some extent, still is) the slogan of people who felt it would be better do eliminate bilingual classrooms for children. For many reasons, I don't believe this is a good learning strategy for children who must learn not only a new language, but also different subject matter content (history, science, math, etc.).

So when I used to teach adult ESL classes and I found myself reminding students, "English only!" I felt a little strange saying these words. However, it was a useful reminder for students paying a lot of money to learn American English.

I'm a private tutor now, so I don't find myself saying, "English only," too often, because I only have one student at a time. I had the opportunity today as two of my students who know each other had an opportunity to chat as I took a short break between students. They are both advanced level students, but they still chose to speak in their native language instead of English. I decided to let this one slide.

It just reminded me of the feeling I used to have when I said, "English only," to my former classes and how strange that expression was for me to say.


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