By George Tsai
Frankly, I take exception to the City Council-passed proposal requiring the translation of English into eight languages because this would inevitably trigger outcries of double standards and create dependency for those beneficiaries.I would like to see more interpreters for hospitals, particularly in the emergency room, where any miscommunication can cause fatal mistakes.As a frequent hospital visitor to see relatives and friends, I have noticed the shortage of interpreters. Unquestionably, any wrongful death as a result of miscommunication would be a great pain to both the family and the hospital.Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed to veto this bill. By now, his veto may have been overridden by the City Council. Anyhow, I am on the side of the minority opposing this legislation. Why? The bill seemingly does the immigrant parents a big favor. It doesn't. It instead discourages them from learning English. Bear in mind that language is nothing but a basic tool that we need in our pursuit of a better life. New York is the world's biggest melting pot. Therefore, every ethnic group is supposed to use the same language at least in schools and official business. That's English. We have people from every corner of the world speaking hundreds of different languages. Yet only a few ethnic groups would enjoy a special privilege over others. Those whose languages are excluded from the proposed eight would certainly cry out “unfairness.'' To appease this situation, the city may have to hire more translators to do the same. It would be costly.I cannot agree more with City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria). He said in the story: “Our language should unite us, not divide us. Anyone who is sending the message to parents and students that they should not learn English is doing them a disservice.''We already have many bilingual or remedial classes in special schools, paving the way for the students to attend the regular classes. It's sad to note, though, that many children still have serious problems in reading and writing after having been here five or six years. We must study the root cause of those problems.An immigrant myself, I know firsthand how difficult it is to learn a new language, especially for adults. But hard work and perseverance will pay off eventually. As a parent, I often checked my children's homework and report cards to see if they had any problem. If they did, I would discuss with them ways to solve it. On the other hand, many ethnic companies across the nation use English in official paperwork, such as application forms and other important documents, even though the vast majority of their employees can hardly understand them. Those who don't fully understand what the document says have no choice but to pick up the dictionary or seek professional help. Ours is a free society; we can speak any language or dialect we wish. But in serious business, we must stick to English.Using tax dollars to cater to a certain ethnic groups and ignore others is unfair indeed. Once they set their foot on this soil, the immigrants should make English study their top priority. We cannot hand any reward to them on a silver platter. Remember, God helps those who help themselves. Why should the government help those who refuse to help themselves? English classes are readily available throughout the five boroughs. However, I favor using taxpayers' money to open more free, year-round English classes for immigrants from non-English-speaking countries. They can attend classes on weekends or in the evening.Yes, many immigrants have to work their fingers to the bone to make ends meet. But any excuse that they are unable to spare a couple of hours each week to study English is unacceptable. It's never too late or too old to learn, but I would not urge older folks in their 60s and 70s to do so.If the parents don't understand the form or forms, they, not the city, should get professional help. While the government provides their children with free education, the parents have the obligation to learn about the American education system and support it by helping their children.Reports show now and then that some parents just don't care about what their children are doing in schools. A few years ago, I also read reports some parents (non-immigrants) threatened to sue the school or teachers when their children got poor grades or dropped out of schools. It's ridiculous. As I see it, parents should be held responsible for their children's poor performances in schools. Few students would shine without parental guidance.We have the best colleges in the world. Each year our institutes of higher learning attract tens of thousands of outstanding foreign students to do graduate work. Ironically, our high school students are no matches for their peers from Asian and European countries in international contests in science and math. Who to blame? Of course, parents and our education system.