I talk a lot to my fellow teachers, and many of them comment to me, “The family only speaks Spanish at home,” and look disapproving. They then glance at me, as though to elicit a similar disapproving response from me. I admit, I don’t give it to them.
I won’t reiterate what these articles say, except to emphasize that being bilingual is an advantage. No bones about it.
A funny bilingual cartoon I enjoy.
So, I get frustrated when the teachers insist to me that a child not speaking his/her native language with his/her parents is detrimental. What good do they expect to come of it? They will probably not learn English any faster from non-native speakers who do not benefit from 6 hours a day, 5 days a week language instruction like they do. Instead, the child spends time building up his/her skills in another language, exercising his/her brain synapses, improving many skills: multitasking, listening, speaking, etc.
The sad thing is many new immigrant parents insist on not speaking Spanish with their children, fearing that their children will not learn English. This is patently untrue and a bit disheartening. Every time a child loses the ability to communicate with relatives in their native language, it’s a loss. They can no longer hear the oral histories, listen to their relatives in their comfortable language. This is upsetting to me. However, I understand their motivation, as many English speakers here in the U.S. insist on the superiority of the English language. While I understand that immigrants should learn English, I don’t think anyone comes to the U.S. without that intention – it’s life circumstances that get in the way (work, exhaustion, third shift, etc.). One student recently commented this his mother didn’t go to free English classes because she couldn’t drive there (no license) and, um, I doubt she was going to walk upwards of 8 miles round trip when she has a family to look after.
I wish we could reach some middle ground where English was important, but not the be-all, end-all. I wish the kids I work with would learn both languages – reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I wish they would get the opportunity to hear their grandparents speak of their home countries in Spanish. I wish they would grow up loving both, understanding both, living both.