San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, April 24, 1998

View from London on 227

Editor -- We run a European network of professionals working with bilingual students in schools. We all value the reliable research shared with us by colleagues in the U.S. and the imaginative and empowering ways in which school districts are celebrating linguistic diversity through two-way bilingual programs, etc. We were very shocked and surprised to hear about the English only proposition (227) currently before Californian citizens.

We were even more surprised to discover that the author of the proposition has suggested, in order to defend the proposition, that unsupported immersion is currently the present practice in most European countries and children are fluent after 180 days in normal classes. I want to emphasize that this is not the case.

Over here we have a wide variety of programs to support students, but all of us would agree that a policy of immersion denies equal opportunities and prevents students from taking a full part in society.

All our programs, and we are working in many languages, affirm that being bilingual is more than twice as good as being monolingual. All our programs affirm that the language of home should be developed to an academic level and that this will enhance the development of second or third or fourth language.

The European Commission supports the development of an increasingly multilingual Europe. There is certainly no support for the Unz proposition in Europe.

Director of Intercultural Education Partnership, London