As a foreign language teacher, I feel called upon to respond to George Ferguson’s guest column (Feb. 11). As a rule, when someone says that it is a waste of time for students to learn foreign languages when they cannot even write competently in English, they are usually people who do not speak a foreign language, and, more often than not, have not spent time in a foreign language class.

The human brain is not like a bucket into which knowledge is tossed. It’s not as if you will run out of space for English if you throw in too much Spanish. Nor is learning a matter of time spent. Many students repeat a class only to know even less after the second round. Learning is about making connections, and the more you stimulate the mind, the more connections will be made.

Foreign language class is where students finally, and sometimes painfully, understand the need for a sound knowledge of grammar. It is here that students learn to master their prejudices and widen their perceptions. It is here that students think about careers abroad and making connections with people who speak other languages there, as well as here in this country.

Learning about other cultures shines a new light on the story of our own.

I have never heard a bilingual person say they wished they spoke only one language. I have, however, heard many people wish they had more skill in another language.

Claire Gamache, Lewiston


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