Teaching children Spanish should be a priority in our public schools

As a huge advocate of raising bilingual children, I was really happy to hear that a charter school in Washington D.C. has launched an interactive learning pilot program to teach its students Spanish. It's about time!

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world and the United States is home to the largest Spanish-speaking population outside of Mexico, so it's only fitting. Unfortunately, proponents of absurd "English-only" laws have made it impossible for children to be taught Spanish in public schools at an early age, which is the best time for second language acquisition.

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The new program, employed at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, an inner-city charter with a large minority population, allows students to study Spanish on their own computers through specialized software that allows for more personalized learning and combines reading, writing, understanding, writing, vocabulary and pronunciation. Sounds great to me!

"We have students who are ethnically Latinos but know nothing of Spanish, or they can speak it but not write it, and there are others who speak no English at all," Jennie Nyles, the school's founder and head, told Efe.

And that's just the thing. While I think it's awesome that more and students in general learn Spanish and become bilingual, there's a huge need within our own Latino community to make sure that our own kids grow up not only speaking our heritage language, but also reading it and writing it proficiently so that they can really say they're fully bilingual. I'm always amazed by the amount of Latinos that I meet who either don't speak Spanish (because for whatever reason their parents didn't teach them) or they do, but they can't really read it or write it. 

I think it's a shame because we already have an advantage over those who have no cultural connection to our heritage language. And, while it definitely takes some effort on our part, as parents we owe it to our children to make sure we're giving them one of the best gifts possible: the ability to speak, read and write in two languages.

To be clear: I'm not saying our children need to learn Spanish at the expense of English (nor do I believe the opposite). I'm simply saying we need to make sure they grow up with both in order to succeed in the 21st Century.

Are you raising bilingual children? What has been your hardest challenge? 

Image via popofatticus/flickr

Topics: raising bilingual kids