In My Opinion
¿Hablas español? Maybe you should.
I started my journey learning to speak Spanish when I was 9. My parents had divorced and I moved to the Dominican Republic with my father. He immediately signed me up to a full immersion school, where morning classes were in English, and afternoon classes were all in Spanish. Needless to say, morning classes, for a good while, were my best.
Not only did I have to learn the Spanish language and all the grammatical rules and excpetions that go with learning any language, but also the cultural nuances that affect the meaning of a word, in the same language, from one country to another. For example, did you know “bolsa” or “bolso” is a terminology used when referring to a man’s testicles in the Dominican Republic, where as in Puerto Rico it’s just a “bag”? Imagine being a 9-year-old girl, walking into a bodega filled with old men asking if any of them had “bolsas” (so that I had something to put all my candy in).
Shortly after mastering Spanish, I took French, and then Italian – both of which are rather rusty, but have been useful when needed.
At this stage in my life, I can’t understand the arrogance – as I see it – in thinking that it is unnecessary to be able to speak a language other than English.
There are so very few places in the world where English isn’t spoken or taught (in addition to native languages). Foreign language education is an integral part of many elementary school curriculums across the world, not as an elective, not as a personal choice that is available to the few who can afford it, but to ALL.
What has happened in the United States has convinced us that despite the growing changes in our global economy and growth of our global community, learning another language is not yet all that important.
We have political argument after political argument demanding that those coming into the states speak English, and what’s most incredible still is that we make the same demands when we travel abroad into other people’s countries as well.
Forbes recently discussed how our deficiency in foreign languages is not only affecting our ability to keep up with global growth, but also our children’s future ability to compete in it.
I wonder, at what point, will we let go of the arrogance of “English-only” and start implementing foreign languages as a required, accessible course at all levels of our country’s educational processes.
Not knowing how to speak Español, or any other language beyond your native tongue is not a matter of patriotism, it is a matter of great concern, and a growing inhibitor to our overall success as a nation, and as individuals.