[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Bilinguals Are Americans Too

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Bilinguals Are Americans Too

Mr. Gingrich, with all due respect, you've got it all wrong.

The ex-Speaker of the House was quoted in several news stories as stating that bilingual education is "dangerous" and equivalent to "living in a ghetto". It's hard for me to believe that someone such as Gingrich who understands the true nature of our real enemies would make such an irresponsible statement.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows my feelings on this issue.

People such as Newt Gingrich and Tom "Third-World" Tancredo don't get it. They are completely and thoroughly out of touch with immigrant communities. Frankly, this is a side of the Republican Party that often disturbs me. To these folks, speaking any language other than English (even if they're bilingual) is the same as not being an American.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Peter Zamora is quoted as saying in the linked article above,
(Zamora) said research has shown that bilingual education is the best method of teaching English to non-English speakers. Spanish-speakers, he said, know they need to learn English. "There's no resistance to learning English, really, among immigrants, among native-born citizens. Everyone wants to learn English because it's what you need to thrive in this country."
I don't need to see the research to believe Zamora. I have seen it with my own two eyes. Those relative few that don't learn English don't do so because of other pressing issues such as working multiple jobs, for example. However, those same people would freely admit that they would be better off by learning English. If learning English wasn't such a strong motivator, then why are night English classes at schools such as Miami-Dade College jam-packed with students?

That's not the point of this post, however.

People such as Gingrich and Tancredo are afraid that being bilingual makes someone less apt to be American, and therefore embrace the values that make our country great. Perhaps they only see extremists such as La Raza and apply that group's mindset to all bilingual Hispanics. Perhaps they should visit cities such as Miami or New York or even Los Angeles and see how people of different cultures and, yes, languages, can come together in one place and incorporate themselves into America. Not the Gingrich/Tancredo vision of America, but the real spirit of America. The spirit of earning your living and living in a free society.

The spirit of defending and laying your life for this country, as so many immigrants have done.

As the Zamora quote illustrates, English will never be replaced as the primary language of this country. Bilinguals don't have a secret agenda to undermine American values. Only extremists do.

I'm sure I speak for my fellow bilinguals when I say that the ability to speak two languages is a huge plus. It doesn't make me better than a monolingual, but it does open doors. More importantly, it enhances the vibrant and diverse fabric that is America.

Mr. Gingrich: open your mind. It's not hard to do.

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Blogger Jonathan said...

I don't think Gingrich is attacking bilingualism. I think he is attacking "bilingual education" as practiced by the education establishment. This is the shunting of immigrant children into native-language programs at the expense of English proficiency. These programs are great for teachers' unions because they get more teachers hired, but they are harmful for poor kids in crummy public schools.

11:05 PM, April 01, 2007  
Blogger La Ventanita said...

Being bilingual is a plus; provided you can appropriately speak both languages - which many don't.

See my comments over at SOTP for what I think Newt tried to say.

8:27 AM, April 02, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...


I think Newt's comments and attitude go a little further than just bilingual education, but that's just my impression.

While the performance of the bilingual programs at some schools may leave something to be desired, I don't think we should trash the entire program because of it. Those schools do a poor job of teaching to their ENGLISH speaking students too.

It's been proven time and time again that immigrant children have absolutely no problem learning English, even if in a bilingual program. English is too dominant a cultural force, even in immigrant-heavy areas.

I've also been blown away by kids who attend the few truly bilingual schools in Miami who speak both English and Spanish well. That's what we need to emphasize. Unfortunately, the Newts of the world would never allow it to flourish.

This is just an issue where I have to depart from the rightmost wing of the Republican Party.

9:41 AM, April 02, 2007  
Blogger Steve ("Klotz" As In "Blood") said...

Here's the poignant quote: "The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. ... We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," Gingrich said to cheers from the crowd of more than 100.

Pardon my sarong, but don't you recognize an insult when you hear it? That is an infuriating remark for which the dickless smarmy bastard should be publicly horsewhipped, and any attempt to excuse it away is equally as gormless as the comment itself.

11:46 AM, April 03, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

You're right Steve, that quote is insulting. I didn't want to dwell on it too much in my post, although I think the post pretty much tries to prove Gingrich wrong.

6:38 PM, April 03, 2007  

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