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Proficiency in English

August 31, 1997

* My parents were Italian immigrants. My father was apprenticed at age 6 to learn his trade as a cabinetmaker. My mom was studying to be a teacher of the French language in her native Italy. But their parents felt they could achieve a better life in America. My mom arrived at the age of 18, my dad in his early 20s. They met and married.

My parents went to night school to learn English. They would not allow us to speak Italian to them. They said, "If you speak Italian to us, not one of us will learn English."

So we spoke English to my parents, made fun of their pronunciations and also corrected them. My parents didn't do that badly for America. One of their children became a well-known medical doctor; one was an electrical contractor who did so much for the small town he lived in that upon his untimely death they planted a tree in his honor; and I overcame a lot of discrimination in my banking career but retired a few years ago as a vice president and chief financial officer.

We didn't become president but my parents gave this wonderful country three hard-working, honest and intelligent people, who in our small way made a difference because we were children of naturalized Americans, and Americans speak English.

MARY A. ALE

Santa Ana

* Carmen Sanchez Sadek writes, "Tuchman and Ron Unz know very well that the jobs of the future require bilingual skills" (Letters, Aug. 20).

This may be. But that misses the point that many of the Spanish-speaking children enrolled in bilingual programs are not learning to be bilingual because the teaching emphasis is in Spanish.

To become bilingual, they should learn English by being taught in English. This worked for the many immigrants in 1890 to 1920. They were immersed in English and it served them well.

These Spanish-speaking students must learn English; although the bilingual program has been in place for many years, it is evident it does not work.

HAZEL H. SCHWAB

San Juan Capistrano

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