Bilingual is Better

This contest is now closed. Congratulations to the winner of this great book: Michelle.

I was pretty excited when I found out journalist Jorge Ramos had written his first children’s book last year and I was even happier when I found it at my local library. As a fellow journalist, I have always admired the work of Ramos–Univision Network’s nightly news veteran anchor–and although I have only read a couple of his books, (he’s written eight), I’ve always been interested in the subjects he covers: immigration, politics and journalism. However, since writing for children is a completely different thing, I was extremely interested in seeing what “I’m Just Like my Mom, I’m Just Like my Dad was all about.

For those of you not familiar with Jorge Ramos, he has been the co-anchor of Noticiero Univision, the Spanish Network nightly news, for over 20 years. In that time, he has covered virtually every historical event and has interviewed a multitude of influential world leaders including Bill Clinton, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama. Ramos also hosts Univision’s weekly public affairs program, “Al Punto,” which provides an in-depth analysis of the week’s top-stories as well as exclusive interviews with newsmakers. Time magazine has named him one of the “25 most influential Hispanics in the United States.”

Photo courtesy univision.com

Photo courtesy of Univision.com

On bilingualism…

During a recent conversation I had the privilege to have with Ramos, he told me how absurd it sounded to him when people in this country claimed that one language is better than two.

“I have traveled all over the world and this is the only country where multilingualism is not valued,” Ramos told me. “In the United States, many people have the wrong idea that what unites the country and its people is the language, when the reality is that it’s all about its values, its laws, its attitudes and the fact that they have always accepted people that come from all over the world.”

Ramos doesn’t understand how others can’t see that speaking more than one language opens up our minds. Being bilingual will open the doors to the rest of the world, other ideas, countries, languages and cultures, he explained. How can that be bad? I don’t understand either…

Especially when there is no stopping the future: Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the country. Currently, one in four kindergartners is Hispanic. In fact, according to a recent study, by the year 2023, there will be more minorities–including Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American–school-aged children than whites. Did you know that more Spanish is spoken in the United States than any other country in the world, except for Mexico, of course. Wow! Aren’t you happy you’re teaching your kids español? (All these statistics, by the way, courtesy of Ramos.)

On Spanglish…

Although some of this info was unexpected, what really took me by surprise was when he told me that he was a “defender” of Spanglish. I assumed, wrongly, being a journalist and all, he’d be one of those who gives the term a negative definition: the bastardization of the Spanish language, that’s what my Dad would’ve said.

“Spanglish is just how we talk, it’s the combination of living in English and Spanish,” he told me. “It is our reality and we can’t deny it.”

Even though he doubts Spanglish will ever become an actual independent language, he told me the most marvelous thing about languages is that they are constantly changing. As you all probably know, the Spanish–and for that matter, the English–we speak today is, by no means, the same one our ancestors spoke 100 years ago.

“We often use Spanglish when delivering the news because it helps us communicate with our audience,” he went on to explain. “In this era of globalization, it’s all about the mixture of cultures, languages, peoples of all colors.”

On his first children’s book…

Interestingly enough, a “mixture” is exactly how he describes his first venture into children literature: his bilingual book “Me Parezco Tanto a Mi Mamá, Me Parezco Tanto a Mi Papá.

Es una mezcla completa,” he told me and went to on to explain why. “It combines the past, the present and the future. English and Spanish. Boys and girls. Why? Because this is how we live, in a mixture.”

Have you noticed that children always want to know who in their family they look like. My daughter is too young for that, but whenever anybody meets her for the first time, they immediately pronounce: “Es igualita a su papá.” (This doesn’t make me happy because I swear she looks like me when I was her age, but that’s a story for an entirely different entry!). Ramos has written a book that addresses this question and the cool thing about it is that once you’re done with the story of how this girl is just like her mom, you can flip the book and read all about how this boy is just like his dad.

I’ve read it to my daughter a few times and although she doesn’t yet get the whole deal of who she looks like, she definitely understands what it means to be part of a family and so she likes to point out who each person is in Ramos’ book because there are children and their parents, but also los abuelos.

Ramos revealed that he came up with the idea about 13 years ago after his father passed away and during an interview with renown Chilean author, Isabel Allende, who was also mourning the premature death of her daughter.

“She told me that the people who we truly love never really die because we repeat them in our gestures, our expressions and in the way we look. It was the best advice I ever got.”

I know exactly what that’s all about. I see my father in Vanessa every single time she pouts.

Oh, wait…there’s a giveaway!!!

As a special gift to SpanglishBaby readers, Jorge Ramos is giving away one autographed copy of  “Me Parezco Tanto a Mi Mamá, Me Parezco Tanto a Mi Papá” to one lucky visitor. Gracias, Jorge! Here’s what to do:

1.  Leave us a comment telling us who your kids look like or anything they do or say that reminds you of a loved one.

2. For a second entry, subscribe to our feed either by email or RSS and leave a comment letting us know. *You must have left a comment (step #1, above) to receive a second entry*.

3. Want a third chance to win? Blog or Tweet about this giveaway. Just make sure to send us the link in a comment.

For the part that nobody likes, but we’ve gotta have, check out the Giveaway Rules.

This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Sunday, March 22nd.

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