Friday, February 5, 2010

Bilingual Adversity

It's time to push the envelope a little...

I'm a Hispanic American and I have 3 young children. I often encounter this:

Person: "Veronica, surely you are teaching your kids Spanish, right?"

Me: "I'd like to, but I'm not fluent."

Person: "You're not fluent? How sad!"

So first, I take responsibility for not speaking fluent Spanish. My mother often spoke to me in Spanish at home. I took Spanish classes in high school. I spent a week in Juarez, Mexico for a mission trip... and ok, I partied in Acuna a few times in college. I should speak Spanish well, but I don't, despite the opportunities I had. I regret it terribly.

But for the sake of argument and thought, it is my opinion that there is a CONTRADICTORY worldview that exists in our American culture today. I don't mean to blame external sources for my lack of knowledge, but consider this...

One side says, "Veronica, you & your children should know how to speak Spanish." "College students should learn another language to compete in today's global market." "Yay for Dora the Explorer!"

Simultaneously (and sometime from the same mouths), another side says, "Veronica, please don't pronounce those Spanish surnames in Spanish." "You're in America, speak English in public. You're excluding us." "Oh, that professor has the worst accent."

Many young Hispanics are functioning somewhere between these two opposing worldviews. We don't want to dilute our native language and culture, but we also know what is (and is not) socially acceptable in mainstream America.

Solution? We need to find the balance. Of course I believe that it is important for people to speak English in the US. However, this should not mean that we run away and scream at the use of another language. It took me many years to learn this. (Perhaps details is a future blog?)

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with this!!!! It was really interesting to see how this played out while I was in Italy, where they didn't expect you to speak Italian just because you were in Italy. However, in the US, we have this view that it's our way or the highway, and since you are here you need to speak English. And even when we go abroad, we expect everyone to speak English too!