Forget English-only! Laws should be "Bilingual only"

I still vividly remember how devastated I felt when my son's speech therapist said that we should only speak English at home. I felt greedy even thinking about another language, after all, he had just been diagnosed profoundly deaf. I've spent my entire career in Hispanic media so I know well what an asset Spanish can be. But it's so much more than that. It's the language of my heart and I'm saddened when I think about others who I love being shut out of mi mundo!


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As time went on and my son Michael started to speak (he uttered his first words at nearly 3 years of age), we secretly introduced Spanish. My Gringo husband continued to speak English but Maria, his loving babysitter and primary caregiver, only spoke Spanish to him!

I went back and forth (which they say is not the right thing to do). Fourteen years later he understands a lot of what we say in Spanish but he is not nearly as proficient as my 18-year-old daughter, Carolina. She is able to speak, read and write Spanish as proficiently as English.

I'd love to take credit for her being bilingual but I can assure you that the only reason she is perfectly bilingual is because she was fortunate to participate in a dual-language program offered by the New Rochelle school system. The program starts in Kindergarten and goes on through 8th grade! The 9-year program not only promoted proficiency and literacy in both languages but it also promoted biculturalism. Half of the kids who participated in the program were native Spanish speakers, the other half were native English speakers. The curriculum was 50/50 in Spanish and English. By the time my son got into Kindergarten the program became so popular among NON-Latinos that my son couldn't get in because he didn't make the lottery.

I am convinced that our entire nation would benefit greatly from more of these programs that promote bilingualism and biculturalism! I understand that it might not be appropriate for every child. The program worked best for children who were tested and scored average or high on English-language skills. As this nation becomes increasingly more multicultural, especially among youth, bilingualism and biculturalism could be the source of reinvention and growth!


Imágenes vía Lucía Ballas/ Alicia Civita/Johanna Torres

Topics: bicultural baby  child rearing