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Author Topic: Another nail in the coffin of the Spanish myth?
snopes
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The idea that Spanish-speaking immigrants are coming here and refusing the learn English and that as a result English is in danger of being supplanted as this country's primary language is one of the myths that lots of people believe, despite a startling lack of evidence that it's true.

http://blogs.chron.com/bluebayou/2006/09/another_nail_in_the_coffin_of.html

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robbiev - singin' off key
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While I've never said that I thought English was "on it's way out," I have said there are quite a few people in the U.S. that don't speak English.

However, I concede that "quite a few" is a relative phrase, and I'm sure it also depends on the area where you live.

I do hear all the time (in particular from my father, he's very predujiced towards anyone is not white, but also from other people) that the country is overrun by Mexicans and black people.

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snapdragonfly
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I don't have any cites for this, but I've lived in the part of America that was Mexico for pretty much my whole life and my experience has been that -

the first generation that comes over, may or may not learn some English. But their kids will learn it - if they are fortunate, they'll be bilingual. Often they have to translate for Mom and Dad, especially for Mom if she was traditional and did not work outside the home in a job that required her to speak at least some English.

The third generation will certainly speak English - often they don't keep their native language enough to really be bilingual because Grandma and Grampa might not be around for them to need to speak Spanish, and they tend to just become integrated into the general population.

I did not live close to any enclaves that were a little colony of immigrants, like a little Chinatown or anything, so I don't know if continued generations in an area like that have a different pattern.

My best friend's dad grew up in a central Texas town, of German immigrants, and he was born in America but he didn't learn to speak English until he went to the first grade. But he did learn English and the only reason his children know any German at all is that two of them married children of German immigrants.

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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One set of my great grandparents came to Canada from Poland and they never learned a lot of English. My Bopchu especially was very housebound (as women tended to be in the early part of the 20th century) and her English was always limited. But my grandmother and all her brothers and sisters went to English schools and English became their first language although they could speak Polish. By the time my mother's generation came along the children were taught, or picked up, some Polish but they were not even remotely bilingual. By the time my generation came along I ended up communicating with my great grandmother (she lived to be 93) with smiles and hugs.

It's a common theme for most families of immigrants that I know. With few exceptions by the third generation the original language is all but lost unless the family has made a Herculean effort to keep it.

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bab5nutz
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I am in two minds about this.

If you move to another country where they speak another language, then you should learn the language. At the same time, I think that it is a shame that the descendents of immigrants cannot speak the language of their parents/grandparents. They lose something of themselves, I think.

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Canuckistan
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My family moved to Canada from Spain in 1975. We all refuse to speak English.

We are, in fact, part of the team that is secretly trying to turn North American into a Spanish-speaking republic.

So far, we have been less than successful.

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Rebochan the Retail Reindeer
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My experience mirrors snapdragonfly's. I spent a summer working at a Target in an area with a very high hispanic population. While I can't speak for what generation the customers were, I did spot that the younger the person was, the more likely they spoke English. I've also experienced the concept of children (including very young children!) translating for their parents.

I personally would be surprised if Spanish disappeared in heavy Hispanic communities. If the children grow up and leave, that would make sense, but I thought constant exposure to friends and family who speak Spanish would preserve the language and the ability to speak it. I could be wrong.

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Gale
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Here's something a lot of people seem to forget: just because you hear people speaking Spanish, it doesn't mean they don't speak English. A lot of 2nd & 3rd generation Hispanics will speak Spanish when they're shopping, socializing, etc. Many of them want their kids to be bilingual. These same people can often speak fluent and grammatically correct English and do so when in a business setting and when speaking with anyone non-hispanic.
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Elkhound
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I grew up in MN and WI where there are a lot of German families. Often when a kid gets to middle/high school where s/he starts foreign language, s/he will think, "Oh, I'll take German--Grandma can help me." Of course, it often turns out that Grandma speaks a fairly obscure dialect of German, rather than the 'proper' German taught in school.

I think part of the reason that Hispanics are not percieved as assimilating as quickly as other non-English-speaking groups is that they are coming in so 'think and fast' that as fast as families assimilate, newcomers take their place; also, there are a significant number of people who go back and forth between their home countries and the US, meaning that as part-time residents they have less incentive to assimilate.

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Jonny T
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a friend of mine is of Polish parentage but born and brought up in the UK. it wasn't until I had known her for a while that I found this out - accent wise there's nothing to indicate. when talking to her parents, however, she speaks Polish pretty much exclusively. were someone of a particular mindset to overhear this they could easily conclude that this was a set of recent Eastern European immigrants who were refusing to assimilate and speak English - rather than a family all of which speaks English without a problem, but which shares another language in which they are more comfortable communicating.

I think this type of misunderstanding may be a large part of the myth being addressed here. not to say that every migrant is immediately fluent in English, but for those with an axe to grind, people holding a conversation in their native tongue reinforces the idea that they are refusing to "assimilate".

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TurquoiseGirl
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I also have a friend whose parents emigrated and who, although fluent in Polish, has no trace of an accent (Well, except regional. But I find that rather charming).


Contrast this with my grandfather, who despite having one immigrant parent and one whose family had been here since 1855, but nonetheless, spoke German at home, and had a noticable accent.

I don't understand this uproar about people learning English immediately on crossing the Rio Grande. It didn't apply to people crossing the Atlantic.

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ThistleSoftware
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quote:
Originally posted by TurquoiseGirl:

I don't understand this uproar about people learning English immediately on crossing the Rio Grande. It didn't apply to people crossing the Atlantic.

I imagine that if people weren't harping on European immigrants learning English then they probably worked out some other justification for their xenophobia.

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Wintermute
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quote:
Originally posted by TurquoiseGirl:
I don't understand this uproar about people learning English immediately on crossing the Rio Grande. It didn't apply to people crossing the Atlantic.

Since when? When my next door neighbor moved from England in the 50's it was expected that she spoke English before she came to the United States. Where in the past 10 years have you ever heard ANYONE say that people coming crossing the Atlantic are not required to speak English?
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queen of the bah-caramels
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quote:
Originally posted by Wintermute:
quote:
Originally posted by TurquoiseGirl:
I don't understand this uproar about people learning English immediately on crossing the Rio Grande. It didn't apply to people crossing the Atlantic.

Since when? When my next door neighbor moved from England in the 50's it was expected that she spoke English before she came to the United States. Where in the past 10 years have you ever heard ANYONE say that people coming crossing the Atlantic are not required to speak English?
Try moving to Quebec??

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Ramblin' Dave, quietly making noise
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quote:
Originally posted by Wintermute:

Where in the past 10 years have you ever heard ANYONE say that people coming crossing the Atlantic are not required to speak English?

I haven't. There was, of course, Pat Buchanan's infamous remark about whether you'd rather live next door to British immigrants or Zulu ones. But while extremely offensive for a number of reasons, I must concede that doesn't amount to saying anyone coming across the Atlantic shouldn't be required to speak English. [Roll Eyes] After all, Zulus would probably come across the Atlantic as well, and many of them already speak English.

But the people I know who are always kicking and screaming about learning English never whine about having to deal with a store clerk who speaks French or German or Dutch. No, it's always Spanish. Besides, the leaders in the English-only movement nearly always turn out to have ties to white-supremacist organizations somewhere in their backgrounds.

Also, most European immigrants I have met have already been at least proficient in English before they came over. I don't think that's anything more than a reflection that it's easier to learn a foreign language when you come from the part of the world with the highest standard of living than when you grew up in grinding poverty, though.

Oh, and...
quote:

When my next door neighbor moved from England in the 50's it was expected that she spoke English before she came to the United States.

Um...well, that's good. We wouldn't want anybody burning a cross in her front yard for calling a flashlight a "torch" or leaving those pesky "u"s in words where they didn't belong. [lol]

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Mickey Blue
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
But the people I know who are always kicking and screaming about learning English never whine about having to deal with a store clerk who speaks French or German or Dutch. No, it's always Spanish. Besides, the leaders in the English-only movement nearly always turn out to have ties to white-supremacist organizations somewhere in their backgrounds.
Not trying to side with the groups your referring to here, but from my perspective you tend to see one (spanish) more then the other, though I'm sure it depends on where you are.

For example I've had several instances where communication between myself and a clerk has been hampered by their lack of understanding of the English language, in every case they spoke spanish.

I personally, however, believe you should be able to speak whatever language you want in this country, however there are obvious advantages to learning the main language of whatever area your in, finding a job for one.

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Wintermute:
quote:
Originally posted by TurquoiseGirl:
I don't understand this uproar about people learning English immediately on crossing the Rio Grande. It didn't apply to people crossing the Atlantic.

Since when? When my next door neighbor moved from England in the 50's it was expected that she spoke English before she came to the United States.
I suspect she was expected to speak English when she lived in England as well.

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

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Canuckistan
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quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
I suspect she was expected to speak English when she lived in England as well.

Cite, please. [lol]

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People need to stop appropriating Jesus as their reason for behaving badly. It's so irritating. (Avril)

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:
quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
I suspect she was expected to speak English when she lived in England as well.

Cite, please. [lol]
[lol] You know that's an excellent point. Does England expect that all it's residents speak English? I feel like there has to be a joke from "My Fair Lady" kicking around here somewhere. "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak..."

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

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Eddylizard
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quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:
quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
I suspect she was expected to speak English when she lived in England as well.

Cite, please. [lol]
[lol] You know that's an excellent point. Does England expect that all it's residents speak English? I feel like there has to be a joke from "My Fair Lady" kicking around here somewhere. "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak..."
Well no. You can speak any language you choose here. In fact you can get many government and council pamphlets in a variety of languages upon request.

The main reason to speak English is convenience. But there is no compulsion to.

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Eddylizard:
quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:
quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
I suspect she was expected to speak English when she lived in England as well.

Cite, please. [lol]
[lol] You know that's an excellent point. Does England expect that all it's residents speak English? I feel like there has to be a joke from "My Fair Lady" kicking around here somewhere. "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak..."
Well no. You can speak any language you choose here. In fact you can get many government and council pamphlets in a variety of languages upon request.

The main reason to speak English is convenience. But there is no compulsion to.

That's what I thought - thanks Eddy!

Of course WM likely wasn't talking about non-English speaking English immigrants in his post so it's a bit of a moot point.

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

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Eddylizard
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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quote:
Originally posted by Christie.

Of course WM likely wasn't talking about non-English speaking English immigrants in his post so it's a bit of a moot point.

It's not outside the bounds of reason. My uncle married a German woman who he met just after WWII on active service and they moved to England. Right up to her death, her English was very limited.

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Wintermute
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quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
Of course WM likely wasn't talking about non-English speaking English immigrants in his post so it's a bit of a moot point.

My point was she said Atlantic. Do you not get to the United States from England over the Atlantic? My brothers MIL moved to the US after WWII from Germany. It was expected of her to speak English. I am curious who these people are from the Atlantic that we do not exepect to speak English.
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Canuckistan
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I expect no one to speak nothing but what they speak. Expecting them to speak English when they move here just doesn't make sense.

But it is odd that you initially picked England as your country where people would be expected to learn English upon entering the U.S. Statistically speaking, that's the country with the best chance of an emigrant already speaking English.

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Little Pink Pill
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I can speak from the other side. When I first moved to Hungary I fully expected to learn the language, but 10 years later, much to my shame I still speak Tarzan Hungarian, a "me Pink Pill, you Zoltan" kind of thing. The problem is convenience. English is common enough here as a second language that everywhere I go there is someone to translate for me. Even when I try to speak in Hungarian my co-conversationalist will often switch to English when they hear my accent. It's just too easy for me to stick to my native tongue instead of taking on one of the most difficult languages in the world. It's hard to motivate myself. [Embarrassed]

I'm an expat, but I imagine emigrants who move into areas where their language is prevalent find themselves challenged in the same way.

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Wintermute:
quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
Of course WM likely wasn't talking about non-English speaking English immigrants in his post so it's a bit of a moot point.

My point was she said Atlantic. Do you not get to the United States from England over the Atlantic? My brothers MIL moved to the US after WWII from Germany. It was expected of her to speak English. I am curious who these people are from the Atlantic that we do not exepect to speak English.
Your exact quote is:

quote:
Since when? When my next door neighbor moved from England in the 50's it was expected that she spoke English before she came to the United States.


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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

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Canuckistan
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quote:
Originally posted by Little Pink Pill:
I can speak from the other side. When I first moved to Hungary I fully expected to learn the language, but 10 years later, much to my shame I still speak Tarzan Hungarian, a "me Pink Pill, you Zoltan" kind of thing.

I hope to move to Paris some day. I would expect to make an effort to learn French (to that end, I'm starting classes next week to brush up on the long-forgotten tongue). It would make my life easier.

It would not be "expected" of me by some as-yet unnamed people, though. There is no requirement for knowing French just to live in France.

Same here. No requirement that you know either English or French to live in Canada (or just English in the U.S.). There might be a requirement for citizenship, but that's a different beast altogether.

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People need to stop appropriating Jesus as their reason for behaving badly. It's so irritating. (Avril)

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:


Same here. No requirement that you know either English or French to live in Canada (or just English in the U.S.). There might be a requirement for citizenship, but that's a different beast altogether.

In order to become a citizen you have to be able to demonstrate some proficiency in either English or French, but you would not be denied entry into Canada if you don't speak either of our official languages. It would probaby be a strike against someone who was applying as a skilled worker* in order to get into the country though.

*edited because I used the wrong term

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

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Canuckistan
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quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
In order to become a citizen you have to be able to demonstrate some proficiency in either English or French, but you would not be denied entry into Canada if you don't speak either of our official languages.

My family certainly wasn't. They came to Canada in 1975 not knowing a word of English. But they did enter Canada.

And we've been here ever since.

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People need to stop appropriating Jesus as their reason for behaving badly. It's so irritating. (Avril)

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queen of the bah-caramels
Jingle Bell Hock


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quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:


Same here. No requirement that you know either English or French to live in Canada (or just English in the U.S.). There might be a requirement for citizenship, but that's a different beast altogether.

In order to become a citizen you have to be able to demonstrate some proficiency in either English or French, but you would not be denied entry into Canada if you don't speak either of our official languages. It would probably be a strike against someone who was applying for a work visa in order to get into the country though.
Our Permanent Residence interview was held in both English and French. Mainly English but we had to demonstrate some knowledge of French.

There is a test for Citizenship in which you need to demonstrate knowledge of Canada and it is availible in English or French.

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:
quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
In order to become a citizen you have to be able to demonstrate some proficiency in either English or French, but you would not be denied entry into Canada if you don't speak either of our official languages.

My family certainly wasn't. They came to Canada in 1975 not knowing a word of English. But they did enter Canada.

And we've been here ever since.

Any law that limited immigration only to those people who already speak English would just about guarantee that only people from English speaking countries would apply. I suspect if rules like that were ever in place (and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they were) they were repealed when emigration from the UK slowed to a trickle and the country needed to encourage immigration from other sources.

Nowadays putting a law like that into place would be a great way to make sure you only get the "right" sort of people of course [Roll Eyes] .

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

Posts: 18428 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
queen of the bah-caramels
Jingle Bell Hock


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quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
Nowadays putting a law like that into place would be a great way to make sure you only get the "right" sort of people of course [Roll Eyes] .

Hey we got in [Razz]

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Focus On The Family- An opinion group who think more about Gay Sex than gay people do- Rick Mercer

Posts: 590 | From: Rawdon, Quebec | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ramblin' Dave, quietly making noise
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by Wintermute:

I am curious who these people are from the Atlantic that we do not exepect to speak English.

They're mermaids, mostly from the South Atlantic, but to a lesser extent the long-torsoed blondes from the far North. They communicate mostly in honk-based dialogues facilitated by breathing through gills rather than mouths, a configuration that makes English, French and Spanish unapproachably difficult to master. So we cut them some slack.

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Another lifetime I'd have fallen in love with you
Swept away by my feelings, ashamed and confused
But just now it's enough to be walking with you
Let the mystery play as it will! -Lui Collins

Posts: 2669 | From: Jouy en Josas, France | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
callee
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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I am a huge fan of official bilingualism. I honestly think that America would bennefit from just making Spanish one of their official languages, and making 3-4 years of Spanish part of the mandatory core curriculam in schools.

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a moment for old friends now estranged, victims of the flux of alliances and changing perceptions. There was something there once, and that something is worth honoring as well. - John Carroll

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snapdragonfly
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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Callee, just from an educational perspective if nothing else (although in fact that's not the only reason AFAIC), I agree that if all American school kids were taught a second language, most likely Spanish, from K on, it would be beneficial. They started teaching Spanish ONE YEAR below my daughter - had she been a year younger she'd have had 7 years of it already, which dissappointed her and me greatly.

It's really cool the way the Spanish teacher teaches the little ones. She comes in and speaks mostly Spanish to them, as much as possible - very simple phrases - and they play games in Spanish. For example she'd have teams, boys vs. girls, and put pictures of articles of clothing up and see which side could name them. The kids loved Spanish class, it was only about half an hour twice a week but it's so smart to start at that age. (and so STUPID to wait until they are in high school and that language center in the brain, whatever part that is, has stopped being so incredibly spongey.)

My cousins moved to South America when the oldest was 4, the second was 2, and the two youngest not born yet. :-) My oldest cousin vanished into the kitchen with the maids and came out 3 months later, completely bilingual. And still is. All four of them speak fluent Spanish - in fact, the two youngest spoke Spanish before they spoke English. (their mom let the maids raise them mostly, and of course the maids only spoke Spanish.)

I don't know why but it seems to be very good brain excercise, for lack of a better word, to learn another language. I think we all should, natives as well as immigrants.

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"Wolves, dragons and vampires, man. Draw the nut-bars like big ol' nut-bar magnets." ~evilrabbit

(snurched because one of my nutbar family members is all about wolves and another one is all about dragons...)(with apologies to surfcitydogdad)

Posts: 2397 | From: Texarkana, TX | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
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