Can`t Learn Or Won`t Learn? Either Way, Aliens Won`t Be Speaking English

Every time I watch President George W. Bush, Senator

John McCain
or Senator Edward M. Kennedy predict
that newly-amnestied aliens

will “learn English
, such is my frustration
that I feel like throwing something at my television.

Bush and his cronies must be fully aware that fluency—or even
basic conversational skills—is not in the offing for
recently-arrived illegal aliens. In fact, I have

witnessed first hand

many aliens
who have been in the U.S. for

more than two decades
cannot even

answer simple questions
like, for example, “Where do you

As someone who has spent

twenty years trying
to teach immigrants English—in vain, 99
percent of the time—I promise you that

language assimilation
is not on the verge of happening no
matter what carrot is dangled in front of them.

Canada, English-speaking civil servants are
frequently unable to

learn French,
even though it

costs them promotions,

national Anglo politicians
have been unable to learn French
even though it has

cost them the Prime Ministership

I have written earlier about my attempts to teach English
during the 1986 amnesty. when a ludicrously low 40 hours of
classroom instruction was required. (Read those columns



My equally unsuccessful colleagues and I have spent
considerable time beating ourselves up over what we perceived as
our collective failures. After all, if your job is teaching
English and no one is learning, what other conclusion can you
draw other than you`re lousy at your job?

But—thankfully—recent research uncovered that ESL teachers
need not be so hard on themselves. According to two economists
at prominent academic institutions, no one can teach non-English
speakers for the simplest of reasons. Save for the rare
exception, they cannot learn! [Legislate
Learning English? If Only It Were So Easy
, By

Austan Goolsbee,
New York Times, June 22, 2006]

In their study,

Language Skills and Earnings: Evidence from Childhood
 University of Chicago Business School

Professor Hoyt Bleakley
and University of Houston professor

Aimee Chin
found that beyond “the critical learning age
of 11 or 12
” it is “difficult” to become fluent in a
new language.

And even if some level of fluency is reached among the
English learners, most will speak with a heavy accent.

Bleakley and Chin point to

and Walter Kissinger as examples. Henry, who
immigrated when he was 14, speaks

English with a thick accent
. His younger brother does not.

The study`s significance is obvious to everyone—except Bush
and his open borders gang.

Among the 20 million aliens who may qualify for amnesty, the
vast majority are adults beyond the “critical learning age.
 They are therefore unlikely English learners and hence will
most certainly be locked into low-paying jobs and a life of

Couple their ages with their mostly indifferent attitude
toward learning English, and the conclusion is inescapable. No
matter what is legislated, amnestied aliens either cannot or
will not learn English.

Another societal fall-out that evolves from the huge
contingent non-English speakers is the negative impact on their
U.S. born children.

In their follow up study published by the University of
California, San Diego`s Center for Comparative Immigration
Studies, “What Holds Back the Second Generation? The
Intergenerational Transmission of Language Human Capital Among
Bleakley and Chin found that children whose parents were
older (than 12) when they arrived in the U.S. do not speak
English well and perform much worse in school than
English-speaking children. They are more likely to go to
preschool and much more likely to drop out of high school.

Not even expensive taxpayer funded

after-school intervention programs
can alter the future for
most children born into non-English speaking households. A
former teacher at a highly-diverse primary school in

Stockton, California
told me that if children do not develop
basic reading skills in the first grade, catching up in the
second grade or beyond is improbable.

Given that so many non-English speaking children fall behind
in school from the first grade on, it is little wonder that they
don`t graduate from high school.

Even though academic research vindicates me, the stiff
resistance to acquiring language skills remains frustrating. 
And the old, “They`re not learning; the

fault is yours
” is maddening.

Check out

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA.)
who, in response to Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger`s suggestion that

Mexicans turn off Spanish television
and focus on English,
said that “immigrants” would like to enroll in ESL
classes but long lines and up to a three year wait prevents them
from doing so.[“Hispanic
Leaders Blast Schwarzenegger`s Advice To Turn Off Spanish T.V

Fox News, June 15, 2007)

My questions to


  • Where are the long lines and the
    three-year waits? At the

    Lodi Adult School
    , where I teach, and at every other
    California school that I am aware of there are no lines and
    no waits.

  • Did you graduate from the University
    of California, Berkeley, and

    U.C.L.A. law school
    without speaking English? Why not
    promote the values of English language that were so helpful
    to you?

  • Why didn`t you, as a former ESL
    teacher, support Schwarzenegger and endorse his obviously
    sound advice? Aliens are more likely to listen to you than
    to him.

For anyone who wants to learn English, the opportunities,
both in the classroom and outside it, are multiple.

Neither Bush nor Schwarzenegger can force learning upon the

The pity is that the eagerness that the aliens famously
display to come to the U.S. for a “better
” doesn`t include an equally-urgent desire to take
the first step toward becoming Americans by learning English.

Joe Guzzardi [e-mail
him] is the Editor of VDARE.COM Letters to the Editor.
In addition, he is an English teacher at the Lodi Adult School and has
been writing
a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive