Bilingual is Better

Photo by woodleywonderworks

It’s been a while since the last time we took a look at the media buzz regarding bilingualism. In the past, we’ve let you know our reaction to newspaper articles, blog posts or videos related to bilingual education, Latino culture and the Spanish language. Now, we constantly share them on our Facebook page and strike up a conversation there.

But what was in the news last week deserves a more in-depth look. The Los Angeles Times, printed three op-ed articles about bilingual education in California, its successes and failures. Always a volatile subject, the pieces received tons of comments from those in favor of bilingual education to those completely opposed. Some of the arguments were the same old story we hear all the time from those who believe bilingualism is not necessary in a monolingual country whose only language should be English. On Saturday, they compiled four of the longer responses to each of the op-ed pieces and shared them with their readers here. You’ll find links to each of the pieces that originated the responses in that same article. I was particularly impressed with the opinion from the son of Taiwanese immigrants who regrets not being taught his parents native language – especially after traveling the world and realizing that pretty much the Unites States stands alone in its zeal to be a monolingual country.

The other news I’d like to share with you, is that last Wednesday SpanglishBaby was featured in the blog USA español, which is part of the well-respected, Spaniard newspaper, El País. Ana did an excellent job answering questions for the article, written by Cristina F. Pereda, which was entitled “El Spanglish es cosa de bilingües” and it had to do with the use of Spanglish by bilinguals in this country. Some of the points made in the article, we’ve explored in the past, particularly in this post about code-switching and the reasons bilinguals do it. As I said at the time, I’d always been one of those people who firmly opposed the use of Spanglish, especially when it came to my own usage. I used to try to force myself to stick to just one language, even when I knew the conversation would flow much smoother if I didn’t try to go contra la corriente. It was only in the last few years that I realized that code-switching – or using Spanglish – is an intrinsic part of being bilingual. (By the way, defining Spanglish is no easy task and I’m convinced many of the negative feelings toward this linguistic practice stem from this difficulty.)

The El País article starts by mentioning words like “carpeta” and “rufo,” the type of sounds that make me cringe whenever I hear them, especially when they come from my daughter’s own mouth – as I’ve written about in the past. And then goes on to explain what Spanglish means, according to sociolinguist David Divita: “It’s not making up words like rufo or adapting bad translations because you don’t know the original term. More and more, the argument is getting stronger that Spanglish comes from being bilingual, from the knowledge of two languages, and not from the lack of command of one of them.”

If you read in Spanish, I suggest you head over there so you can finish the whole piece and then take a look at the comments left by readers (and maybe even leave your own). There’s more than 50 comments right now and they range from those who are completely opposed to it to those who use it themselves and understand how impossible it would be for bilinguals who live between two worlds and two languages not to partake in this linguistic practice.

Have you run into any great articles about bilingualism lately? Please do share.

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