June 23rd, 2009

Gringa Chicana

Extra Special Perception

Over the past several years, I've seen a lot of PC wrangling over the names for programs teaching American English to folks who already have a firm grasp of one or several other languages. It started over rumblings that ESL (English as a Second Language) is usually an inaccurate if not insulting descriptor since many students are fluent in more than their native tongue by the time they start learning English. Rather than come up with a standard naming convention, it seems that educators have instead scrambled for clever and easily remembered acronyms. Instead of ESL, we now have English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), English as an Additional Language (EAL), English as an International Language (You know... LOVE!EIL), English as Lingua Franca (ELF), English as a Second Dialect (ESD), English for Special (or Specific) Purposes (ESP – my favorite), and English for speakers of Foreign Languages (EFL). It’s a parade of acronyms that would make a government agency proud, and god forbid that any be taken out of context. It’s even more fun when Teaching Others (TO) is added to the front of each string.

When one is looking to learn another language, this sea of potential names and accompanying collection of strung together letters is bound to lead to all sorts of confusion. I’m guessing that English is off the table since it’s reserved for grammar & composition at one level, and literature and literary critique on another, so something else is needed. The perfect solution, which only made sense pre-coffee after a night of fitful sleep, came to me while I was looking at a TOEFL ad this morning on the train. In my head, the acronym parsed as Teaching Others English, the Forbidden Language.

Of course, English, the Forbidden Language must be said with some sort of outrageous Spanish accent for appropriate emphasis.