Bear with me. I spent at least three hours trying to read 46 pages of Cien Anos de Soledad two nights ago, and I am on a Spanish kick.
But really, as difficult as reading a magic realism novel in a foreign language is, and no matter how ridiculous I sound when I stutter and spit out the words as I attempt to read aloud in class, I’m getting closer and closer to being bilingual.
While I might feel cool and unique when I say that, and as I read one Hispanic novel after another, I really shouldn’t. Bilingual education should be more integrated in schools and campuses around the United States.
People, help me out here. The 2013 United States Census Bureau documents about 38.4 percent of Texas’s population as being Hispanic or Latino. Now, it’d be grossly negligent to say all of those people only speak Spanish. I’d actually offend myself if I let that publish, but I’m trying to emphasize a point here. Texas, and its border with Mexico running 1,254 miles, should be a chief instigator of better-incorporated bilingual education.
I’m a little biased with my Spanish class background, but really ANY foreign language being incorporated in required curriculum would be helpful.
Huffington Post hopped on the bilingual bandwagon, reporting that bilingual education benefits students cognitively and socially. It helps people understand their native language better and can lead to more confidence is conversation.
OK, OK, so I’m sure you took a foreign language in high school and maybe even completed your college requirement for it, too. But did you really learn anything?
I took four years of Spanish in school, all the way up to AP classes, and when I got back into Elementary I and II Spanish last year, I could barely remember a thing.
Also, I never, ever, learned the correct pronunciation of anything, really.
Similar concepts apply to foreign language in college. In my experience, the teachers here are great, they really work with you and incorporate as many oral presentations they can to get students speaking the language (OK, so I’ve only been in Spanish classes, but I imagine it’s the same across the board).
But how much does the average student retain? After spending an entire semester in Montevideo, Uruguay, immersed in the culture and basically drowning in Spanish (conversational and literature classes), I’m still struggling to read a few novels. And please don’t ask me to speak Spanish, I’ll immediately clam up and feel like a failure.
The foreign language requirements are just that, requirements. They don’t require a student to learn anything more than remote memorization and how to work well in group projects. The United States has got to take the importance of bilingual education more seriously, especially if we dare call ourselves the melting pot.