English-only is the wrong choice

I learned English at the age of 8 after spending hours watching cartoons; acquiring the language came easy at that age. Since then I’ve had mastery over both Spanish and English.

I have my occasional identity dilemma, as much as any other young individual who has grown in two different countries and struggles to call one place alone home, but I have long felt fortunate to be able to traverse between two different cultures. I accept that I might not conform entirely with either, but at least I can converse with others in Spanish and English with ease. My cousins, who were born in the U.S., have not been as fortunate.

When my aunt decided not to teach my cousins Spanish, despite her good intentions, she limited their opportunities. My cousins were born in the U.S., but there is a whole other half of their family tree that lives in a different country and will remain remote to them because of the language barriers that divide them.

Now that my cousins have grown into angsty teenagers who want no relations with their immediate relatives, much less any foreign ones, my aunt is frantically trying to teach them Spanish and gets frustrated when they only reply in English. My aunt, like many immigrants in the U.S. before her, once thought that her children would fare better if they conformed entirely to the country they were born in. To her, this meant they would be better off concentrating on acquiring English skills and shrugging off Spanish.

Although it might appear like not wanting to teach your children your native language is an odd choice, many proponents of English immersive education and measures like Proposition 227, which passed in California in 1998 and eliminated many bilingual programs and required most classes to be taught in English only, are Latinx. According to the LA Times, 50 percent of Latinx supported Proposition 227 because they believed it would help their children succeed in school. Proposition 227 was recently repealed by Proposition 58, which will allow for more immersive bilingual education in the classroom.

Now, more educators are pushing for bilingualism in schools and the idea that being bilingual can actually help you succeed in the long run by providing more job opportunities is gaining traction. Studies show that being bilingual can even make you smarter and more socially competent. Bilingualism is becoming widely accepted, and my aunt had a change of heart. It’s definitely not too late for my cousins to learn Spanish. I am a firm believer of the “it’s better late than never” stance. But now my cousins have to make that decision for themselves, because it’ll take a little more work.

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