English as a Second Language and Citizenship

The English language first developed in the 5th century. This was the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, and it was then that the British Isles experienced an invasion of Germanic tribes. The Celtic king at first invited these tribes to defend the Romanized part of the island against non-Romanized tribes, but the Germanic tribes soon turned on the Celts. Britain was conquered by the Germanic tribes in nearly 100 years. And this influenced the formation of English as we now know it.

The influence of Germanic tribes-the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes-is undeniable in the English language. In fact, the word English is derived from the word "Englisc" in the Angles' language. The convergence of the three tribes brought on the Anglo-Saxon period.

Old English 500s-1100s

During this period, many events took place that affected the language.

Although it would be hard to converse with someone in Old English using modern-day English, the most widely-used terminology in modern-day English has its roots in Old English. Some Old English words are still used today: "Henceforth," "midst," and "seek" are some examples. It is estimated that 15% of modern English can be traced back to the time of Old English.

Middle English 1100s-1500s

England was conquered in 1066 when the Duke of Normandy decided to invade the country. This is known as the Norman French invasion. The language of the Normans, which was type of French language, mixed with Old English and created the Middle English language. Because Normans viewed the conquered Anglo-Saxons as inferior, Norman French became the language of the upper classes in England while Old English remained the language of the lower classes. It's interesting to note that because of this social structure, Old English words came to describe rougher, difficult aspects of life. An example is the Old English words "work" and "hard" and the Norman French words of "leisure" and "profit."

Early Modern English 1500s-1800s

The modern English period begins after Anglo-Saxon and Norman French became a single language. Soon after, British explorers began traveling around the world and communicating with traders from different regions. The English adopted foreign words. Modern English has words from almost every language of the world: examples are "mosquito" (Portuguese or Spanish), "pajamas" (Hindi), an"taboo" (Tahitian).

The printing press was invented in this time period, and this helped to standardize the language by giving consistency to grammar and spelling. The first major dictionary, Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson, was published in 1755.

American English

American English, also known as United States English, is today the most dominant type of English. American globalization and the broad reach of American mass media have resulted in its popularity. It is estimated that two-thirds of native English speakers live in the United States. The U.S. federal government, however, has not set English to be the official language of the country. The language is therefore only considered to be the de facto national language. Nevertheless, English does have official status in 31 of the 50 states.

The history behind English-only movements dates back to the early 20th century when hostility toward immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe was at an all-time high. Significant immigration legislation was passed during this time. First, in 1906, the Naturalization Act passed and mandated that immigrants must speak English to become naturalized citizens. After that, in 1921 with the Quota Act and then in 1924 with the Johnson-Reed Act, the quota system favored certain nationalities over others. The total number of immigrants allowed per year was 164,667, and it accepted 51,227 natives from Germany, 34,007 natives from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and 28,567 natives from Ireland. This meant that the admission into the U.S. of the other 50,866 people was to be divided between countries in Northwest Europe, Scandinavia, Eastern and Southern Europe and others.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 got rid of the national-origins quota and created a system based of family reunification and employment, but this shifted hostility toward Latino and Asian immigrants.

ESL Programs

In the early 20th century, before World War I, school districts in major cities began developing special curriculum for students with limited English proficiency. Bilingual education was available and accepted, but after World War I, nativism and isolationism slowed down bilingual trends. Immigrant youth in schools were seen as illiterate and often reported as mentally challenged simply because of their lack of English-language skills. As a result, immigrant children were looked down upon for speaking in their non-English native languages.

Bilingual Education Legislation

Several bilingual education laws had been passed in the U.S., at state and federal levels, that date back to 1839. Ohio was the first state to authorize a bilingual education law, and by the end of the 19th century, twelve other states had passed bilingual education laws. Languages such as French, Spanish, Norwegian, Czech, Italian, Polish and Cherokee were taught along-side English. However, by the 1920s, most bilingual education laws had been tossed aside.

The most important law regarding bilingual education came forty years later with the Bilingual Act of 1968. This was the first federal law in the history of the U.S. created to provide funding for bilingual education. The Act stated that language minority students should have "full access to the learning environment, the curriculum, special services and assessment in a meaningful way."

No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002 ended the Bilingual Act. The English Language Acquisition Act was passed and it established that bilingual education should be determined on a state level.