I haven’t been able to stop thinking about something I read recently. As I have already mentioned, since starting SpanglishBaby, I feel like I spend most of my waking hours here, surfing the internet. Every single time I sit in front of my laptop’s 13-inch screen, I find something new and interesting regarding bilingualism, languages, Spanglish. Anyhow, I still don’t know how I feel about the blog entry in question; the one I can’t get out of my mind. I do know its content is disturbing to me, but I haven’t fully figured out why. And I was thinking maybe you can help me sort it out?
The entry was written a couple of months back for the parenting section of a blog in New Jersey. The author, a Hispanic mother of two, confesses that even though she is bilingual, her kids are not. Of course, she is not the first one, nor–I’m sure–will she be the last parent to do this. It is a well know fact that many second generation Latinos, particularly Mexican-Americans in the West, were forbidden by their parents to speak Spanish, despite their own limitations in English, in an effort to help them assimilate to their new culture. That’s why we see so many people with “Hispanic” last names que no hablan ni pio de español.
To be or not to be…bilingual and bicultural
And it is exactly that–her struggle with assimilation–the main reason the author of the entry uses for deciding not to raise her kids bilingual. She states that she can’t hide her pride when seeing the words “New Jersey” on her children’s birth certificates and that she was secretly delighted when her kids grew up so “American.” Something she didn’t have, I guess. Even so, I fail to see how that has anything to do with giving your kids the gift of bilingualism; a gift the author herself got from her parents.
To be fair, she doesn’t really describe her struggle in this blog entry, so it’s difficult to gauge what she is referring to . This is what I do know from additional research: her parents brought her here as a baby and overstayed their visa. When she was 6 years old, she returned to Argentina with her mother for her grandfather’s funeral. It took her father two years to figure out how she would get them back to the States. Finally, when she was 8 years old, with the help of a coyote they crossed the border illegally and the family was whole again.
I can imagine this being an odyssey for a child. However, I’m still having a hard time understanding the correlation. In other words, her kids are already American, they were born here, so what kind of struggles would they go through if she had taught them her mother tongue? Here’s something else I don’t get: why would she deprive her kids the opportunity to learn who she truly is? I read somewhere about a Korean woman whose parents did not teach her Korean in the name of “assimilation.” The woman has never been able to communicate directly with her grandparents, read her published uncle’s books, feel like she belongs among her Korean community in the States and will not be able to teach Korean to her own two kids. How sad. In the end, she says: “It’s about teaching kids your heritage and making sure things are passed down.”
Belonging to two worlds
And that’s exactly how I feel. For me, teaching Vanessa Spanish has more to do with history and identity than with future advantages and benefits, these are added bonuses. I just simply can’t imagine her not being able to communicate with my 94-year-old grandmother or feeling like a stranger among her own family because she doesn’t understand our native language. Yes, my daughter is American.
Her birth certificate says “Colorado” and she is being raised right here, so I’m sure she’ll grow up “American.” Yet, nothing would make my husband and I more heartbroken than failing to teach our kids the richness of our diverse culture and the blessings of belonging to two worlds. After all, that’s how we’ve been living for a while now and we couldn’t feel luckier. !Gracias papá y mamá!
This is just my opinion. This is an open forum and all points of views are welcomed and ecouraged. What is your point of view? Has this been a struggle for you? Thanks for sharing.