You mean it’s difficult to learn in another
language? Well, duh! The article above reflects on a poll by the Associated
Press-Univision that shows how Latinos are lacking in education, blaming
language barriers. Although the finding seems beyond obvious, we have to
remember that not all Hispanics are first generation and that many already
speak English. So why does the majority fail to graduate high school, much less
The communication between parents and school is
where the problems arise. Children come home to school, only to have their
non-English speaking parents unable to help them with their homework. Hispanic
parents are also less likely to attend meetings with teachers, complain or
advocate for their child’s needs.
I have first hand experience in that. When I was
9 years old, in 4th grade, my Tio who was a counselor decided it was
time to be switched from bilingual classes to monolingual. In the social world
of elementary, Spanish and English classes don’t mix, don’t talk and are
natural rivals. I was obviously thrilled for the change. My Tio was the one
that moved me, not my parents they didn’t really have an opinion. However, for
the change my mother switched me from watching novelas on TV to Arthur on PBS.
That was her way of teaching me English I guess.
Class was unbelievably hard. Although my teacher
was Hispanic (duh, it’s El Paso who isn’t) she didn’t know Spanish and couldn’t
translate the assignments for me. I was so used to being at the top, the fall
to the very bottom of the food chain was a long way to go. Of course, as a
student you know how smart or dumb you are. Reading groups was the way to know.
If you were the smartest one, you would be reading cool, thick books. If you
were dumb, as I was in the 4th grade, you were reading baby books.
That was my motivation in a way. The humiliation of being at the bottom
encouraged me to learn. One of the girls in class that knew Spanish helped me
translate the work and was my only true friend.
At the end of the school year I was able to be
part of the top reading group, all thanks to Roald Dahl. Reading book, after
book helped me learn English, not the incompetent teacher that placed me in the
school’s English spelling bee. I was struggling differentiating the sounds of
vowels, because they are completely the opposite in Spanish (the “i” sound in
English means “e”). That was not a push in the right direction, but a
humiliation still tattooed on my mind.
My parents never helped with my homework, I had
to struggle alone, because they didn’t know English well enough. If there were
no Tio to place me in monolingual classes, until what age would I have learned
English? If there were no friend that translated for me, would I have passed
onto the next grade? Most importantly, if there was no Roal Dahl…well the world
would be depressing, no Charlie and Chocolate Factory, that’s just sad.
I think there has to be a true blending of the
languages to learn English and maintain Spanish. Arizona and California are
only hurting themselves by removing teachers with foreign accents from schools,
or making bilingual classes illegal. There has to be a change both at home and
at school for students to pass the hurdle. Many critics will say that America
shouldn’t change things for one minority and that English is the language of
the country. But the goal is to help students, not make a point about the
Americana lifestyle by damaging the future of students.