Learning English in Silicon Valley
Debate continues in many languages

San Jose Mercury News (Letters)
February 7, 1998

BILINGUAL education was the topic of a recent lunch discussion with six other friends. All of us are Mexican professionals, currently working in Bay Area computer companies, living in this country anywhere from eight months to over 10 years. Although we all had different English-learning experiences, we did agree that the most useful were those that removed the safety net of our native language and forced us to join the mainstream. Of course, this was very difficult and frustrating at times, but it would have been worse to remain isolated with our Spanish-speaking friends. Faced with the necessity of learning English, our language barrier quickly disappeared and we soon caught up with any academics we might have missed during that time (and this was not five to seven years, but more like one to 1 1/2, especially at the elementary/middle school ages).

We all asked ourselves why there would be such strong support for bilingual education programs when, based on our experiences, this could only lead to further isolation of the children. The only explanation we could find is that the supporters of bilingual education are more interested in job security, political and economic issues than the well-being of the students. I could not be writing this letter had it not been for the fact that I learned English before becoming a good student, not the other way around.

Miguel Sanchez
Mountain View