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In the movie Spanglish the mother, Flora makes the right decision to remove her daughter Christina from an all public school where she was losing her maternal language and culture. In the light of today’s rapid globalization, she made the right decision socially, economically, and educationally. The value of retaining and improving fluency in their first language should be obvious in the United States where trade has become more diverse and national security agencies are searching for fluent speakers of languages other than English as analysts and translators.
Because of the globalization of business and the very real threat of terrorism from foreign sources, foreign languages are popular once again with educational officials. We have a tremendous need for people who speak two languages, but we are getting fewer and fewer bilingual graduates to fill it. First-generation Americans born to immigrants soon find it more convenient and useful to speak English. They are surrounded by it. Children of new immigrants also rapidly adopt English, even at home, ignoring the opportunity to learn their parents’ mother tongue. More and more school systems are deciding to phase out expensive bilingual education, so fewer opportunities are available for children to learn their own language. If this continues, virtually all foreign languages will be swallowed up in America by English.
In the movie Spanglish, Flor wanted a better life for her daughter and for her daughter to keep her native language and heritage. She worked hard to pay for private school for Flor to prove that she was not a “gold digger”, as she said in the movie. That she could make her own way. She decided to take Christina from the all-English public school to protect her future. However, it is still a very difficult project, since Flor is very friendly with a one-language English family. Her motives were simple, and her actions were the best thing she could do for her child. She intended to help Christina retain her ethnic heritage, an important part of which is language, so Flor offered her daughter the opportunity to expand her mind and change her future. (Swift, Mike 2007)
Had Flor not removed Christina, the odds are that Christina would have lost her native language and the benefits which go with it. Every foreign language in California, including Spanish, is “on a pathway to linguistic death…”(Sacchetti, Maria 2007). Generation of immigrants has lost their language. Some Spanish-speaking parents try enrolling their children in Spanish religious classes so they will keep some of the traditions and learn something about their parents’ culture. (Swift, Mike 2007) 87 percent grew spoke a different language from English at home, but only 34 percent learned that home language well. 70 percent prefer to speak English. “English wins, and it does this very quickly.” (Sacchetti, Maria 2007) English wins and the children lose.
Research has shown that there are parts of the brain which fail to develop if a child does not learn a second language by about age twelve. In addition, it has been shown that children with two cultures in their lives have “an ability to see and be able to deal with the complexity of intergroup relations that is literally in their bones, hearts and minds, “ says Joel Crohn, the author of Mixed Matches: How to Create Successful Interracial, Interethnic and Interfaith Relationships. It is in working to find their own new blended identity that they become really balanced and tolerant human beings with a greater understanding of humanity. (Crohn, Joel 200?) In addition, these children develop a better understanding of symbols and symbolic relationships.
In addition to their personal development benefits, there is a world of opportunity awaiting the bilingual graduate, Companies really need these people, and they offer very high pay, travel, and educational opportunities, much more than poor immigrant parents can hope to provide. ( Whitehead, Sara 2006) So keeping her mother tongue, which is much easier than learning a second language that is not spoken by your parents, could be very profitable for Christina in the future.
Clare Muñana is a really good example of these companies that need bilingual people. She tries to hire interns who switch easily between Spanish and English in listening, taking notes, and making reports. Muñana is president of Ancora Associates, Inc., and she’s not the only executive seeking employees with foreign language skills. Chicago companies are desperate for employees who speak, read and write more than one language. Muñana says that the district’s schools cannot produce graduates with those skills. So she and Alberto Carrero formed the Bilingual Education and World Language Commission with members like top-level officials, community advocates, parents, principals, and teachers to make the right changes. (The commission is funded by the Chicago Community Trust.)” (Karp, Sara 2006)
Many school districts stopped giving bilingual education but some are planning to start up new dual-language programs, because is it good for the students, good for their futures, and also good for their self-esteem. By showing we place value on their language and culture we can empower students and they share this with others. Many reasons why children of immigrants are afraid to work at keeping their heritage is because they are devalued for not being born to an English-speaking family. This needs to change or we will lose forever what these children can bring to the culture, the school, and their future employers. One fifth-generation American I know said she likes guys with accents because it means they have enough brains to learn a second language. So maybe bilingualism needs to become cool again.
There are many logistics problems with dual language education, but the obvious benefits to children and society are huge. There is a shortage of bilingual teachers and a shortage of materials. The media does not carry many foreign language materials, but most movies on DVD offer foreign language sound or subtitles. Finding room and time for these classes is a big problem in many crowded inner-city schools. Perhaps businesses could be persuaded to invest in bilingual education. They would get a nice tax deduction and potentially valuable future employees.
Diane Zendejas, who is the director of the Chicago district’s Office of Language and Cultural Education hopes that things will change there. Sometimes students who get instruction in two languages are seen as stupid and the classes are for fixing the handicap, but it needs to be seen as maybe extra help for students who have something valuable that we want to make even better, just like students who are good in maths get more advanced lessons, so students who are good in another language should get more advanced language lessons. (Karp, Sara 2006)
According to a study at the University of California, Irvine, the number of people who lose their native language is huge. (Rumbaut, Rubén G. 200?) Other studies have replicated his findings.
Sadly, English has simply become the global language of business, and many immigrants arrive speaking some English. English attracts young people as it makes socialization more easy and profitable. Parents also value English as necessary for the successful lives of their children. While many are sad about the cultural cost to their children, they do not understand that speaking a second language fluently is just as valuable. Many of these kids wind up in low-paying labor or service jobs and never cross the threshold of a college when the simple support of their native language could change it all.
Flor, in the movie, did the right things for her daughter, because the daughter will have a better possible future since she will be one of those people that lots of companies want. She will be somebody who understands all the little differences of the value systems and traditions of the two cultures and is comfortable speaking, reading, and writing in both languages. It is said that most immigrants do not get this advantage, because their home language is not seen as something valuable, and they are not respected for being able to use a second language. These students and our culture, schools, and companies are the real losers. By being bilingual Christina will be able to socialize with people of her own cultural background and exchange ideas and needs with them as well as understand the ideas and needs of potential employers in the United States who are searching for bilingual employees.
Sacchetti, Maria, 200?, Immigrant Parents Struggle to Keep Their Children Bilingual Writer name, year, Spanglish, Cinema company ie. publisher.
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Swift, Mike, 2007, Native Languages in Valley Fade as Immigrants’ Children Embrace U.S. Culture, The New York Times Company, Mercury News.
Whitehead, Sarah, 200?, Bicultural Families: Meeting the Challenges of Raising Children with Two Cultures.