WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS Washington) – As poll numbers show a continual rise in popularity for Newt Gingrich in the Republican presidential candidate race, the former Speaker of the House finds himself subject to increasing scrutiny.
Research into the GOP hopeful’s history has produced a video of a 2007 speech during which Gingrich refers to the Spanish language as “the language of living in a ghetto.”
He was speaking to the National Federation of Republican Women about bilingual education and mandates issued by multiple states to mail voting ballots in multiple languages.
“We should replace bilingual education with … immersion in English, so people learn the common language of the country,” he said.
During the speech, he also referred to English as “the language of prosperity.”
Days after the speech, Gingrich made a public apology in Spanish.
Miriam Ebsworth, who serves on the executive board of the National Association of Bilingual Education, said that English immersion as an educational model only serves to isolate English as second language students, rather than help them to learn English faster.
“If you don’t know English well, when you sit in an English-speaking classroom (geared toward) natives, you don’t have a clue what’s going on,” she told CBS Washington. “They’re not hearing their native language, and they don’t know enough English to take advantage (of their education).”
Ebsworth is also the director of doctoral programs in multi-lingual and multi-cultural studies at the Steinhardt School at New York University. Her professional research and personal experiences lead her to stress the importance – and frequent inaccuracies – in labeling of language-centric education models.
She said that, in certain models, all participating students emerge bilingual, opening up personal and professional opportunities to them.
“Bilingual education means using two languages in education so that learners develop both languages and emerge bilingual,” she said in an e-mail to CBS Washington. “Immersion means being in a monolingual environment designed for native speakers of the target language. Dual language … involves the participation of students who are native speakers of either one language or the other, (and t)he goal is for both groups to emerge bilingual.”
CBS Washington has reached out to the Gingrich campaign for further comment.