The adventure began during family carne asadas in our backyards! Mando Rayo and I, along with our significant others and children, would share common experiences about growing up in the US/Mexico borderlands. For us, it included nuances unique to our cultural experiences, in addition to delicious TACOS. This children’s book is not only about yummy amazing tacos from our experiences in Texas and California, but about representation. Young children and their parents are able to connect with people, places, experiences and, of course, food in ways that reflect what it can look and sound like to grow up in the U.S. as proud Latinx people. There are several things I love about our book, Vitamina T for Tacos, that Martha Samaniego Caledron, the illustrator, so beautifully captured, but my favorite part is that it is purposefully written in Spanglish. Young bilingual children will be able to see themselves in the book and hear their language practices in ways that are close to our bilingual corazones. I hope you enjoy the book! Disfruten and don’t be surprised if you have the urge to prepare some tacos right after reading it with young children!
It is both surreal and ironic to me that this blog post still rings true for so many….
With the rise of dual language education in the U.S., have bilingual, Latinx children become a commodity? In other words, are children who walk into the dual language classroom already speaking two languages possessing a highly valued commodity: bilingualism? The question, though, still remains, whose bilingualism is valued? Is it the “middle class” students bilingualism or is it those students who come from “lower class” homes? To distinguish between “middle” and “lower” class, I’d like to clarify how I am referring to the two kinds of bilinguals. There are those whose parents have a “formal” education and belong to a certain (higher) economic bracket and those whose parents have a “limited” formal education and come from lower economic brackets, generally speaking. Both bilinguals are what we, in academia, call heritage-speakers of a minoritized language (like Spanish).
This past week my little girl completed her first year at a local private Spanish immersion daycare center. At the end of each year the escuelita (little school) puts on a recital where each classroom dances to a Spanish song. The theme was “Los Insectos….and Other Little Critters.” One of the many reasons why I love and chose this escuelita for my daughter is because they value linguistic diversity. As you can see in the very title of the production the teachers at her school chose to translanguage: Spanish and English are used in a single phrase. I love that because it reflects a view of bilinguals drawing from one linguistic repertoire like many of us do in Central Texas. In an earlier post, I wrote about my experience while visiting another Spanish immersion school before deciding where my daughter would attend. It was at that other school where I was informed “We don’t use Tex-Mex here.” What they failed to realize is the importance in being able to communicate with members of our local community, in addition to being able to perform linguistically in academic settings, like the classroom. For this reason I decided to enroll my daughter elsewhere, but also because they insulted a key feature of my linguistic repertoire!
My parents were or would be categorized as working class Mexican immigrants and I was/am a heritage-speaker of Spanish, though when I was in elementary school in the 80’s dual language education was not an option. Now, I identify asa middle-class and highly educated parent of two daughters I am raising with multiple languages. I presume her multilingualism will be a highly valued commodity as local schools try to fill dual language classrooms with “native” Spanish-speakers. What I will continue to strive for, as a parent and academic, is placing greater value in the dynamic ways the Latinx community uses Spanish and English like we do in central Texas!
(Originally posted in 2012 on the SpanglishBaby website)
When Proposition – 58 passed in 2016 it repealed Proposition 227. Proposition 227 eliminated bilingual education for students who speak a language other than English in the state of California. Proposition -58 makes bilingual education programs a requirement in public schools as long as they meet the following requirement.
Community members have the right to request a bilingual education program at their local public schools if 30 students at any given school are considered English Learners. This rule also applies if there are 20 students in any given grade level who are considered English Learners. English Learners are students whose parents have stated on a Home Language Survey that they speak a language other than English at home. School administrators test children whose parents have stated that they speak a language other than English at home to see if they fall along an English Learner continuum. In the state of California, there are several labels used to identify an individual as an “English Learner.” It should be noted that “English Learners” are bilingual children. Many of our bilingual children come from minoritized and immigrant communities. They arrive at our local public schools with a wealth of cultural and linguistic knowledge and it is time for us in California to open our school doors ready to learn from and with them.
That being said, any school community member can request a bilingual education program. In other words, the school community member does not have to be a parent of an English Learner. The website, Ala y Voz (by California Together), has created an array of materials school communities can use to raise awareness about requesting a bilingual education program. The website also includes information about HOW to request a bilingual education program at your local school.
There are several models of bilingual education communities can request and the one that is chosen really depends on the school and community demographics. The model that is highly effective and has gained a great deal of popularity is the two-way immersion dual language model. I recommend those seeking a bilingual education program choose a model that best meets their school needs.
Lets work towards creating awareness about our multilingual communities in the U.S. One way to start is by being aware of our (language) rights and advocating for bilingual education.
I started this journey, this goal of wanting my children to be bilingual by reading books about bilingual parenting. None of the authors looked and sounded like me and none were born and raised in the U.S. like myself. If they were, they usually were not Chicana. My obsession in making sure my children knew Spanish was not because I wanted them to have a global or economic edge. I didn’t even necessarily want them to be “able to speak to more or other people.” I wanted my children to speak Spanish because my parents were asked to not speak it when they first entered public schools in this country. My intent in raising bilingual children was a form of resistance and healing for what my parents and countless of other Mexicano immigrants like my family had endured.
The strategies I read about didn’t quite fit with how I grew up nor who I am as a bilingual. At the same time, the deeper I delved in my Ph.D. in bilingual education while also raising my children I realized that U.S. born and raised Mexicanxs/Chicanx communities like myself draw from our own unique sets of bilingual strategies. Some of these include the following:
- Speaking Spanish as a form of Resistance! For example, if you notice that others seem a little uncomfortable with your Spanish, then, maybe you speak a little louder in Spanish. This has happened to me countless of times and usually in a grocery line.
- Speaking Spanish as a Right: This strategy is similar to the one above, but perhaps you choose to simply keep speaking Spanish despite others being uncomfortable. My Spanish was once corrected (in English) by a cashier at a bakery. I took this as an opportunity to politely remind the cashier that I can speak however I’d like as it is my Spanish. At the same time, I modeled for my daughters (yes, he corrected me in front of my children–society doing its part in bringing Spanish down) how to stand up and protect their Spanish.
- When you promote your culture, children are more invested in speaking Spanish: One thing we do every year is set up an alter for the day of the dead. This is a great opportunity to share with my daughters about their ancestors and family who have past (all of them happen to be Mexican).
- We NEVER speak badly or make fun of Spanish (or Mandarin, but that’s a different blog post): We treat Spanish like a very special guest in our home who deserves all the respect in the world. We only uplift Spanish and say wonderful things about it because society does a “great” job bringing the language down as it is.
- English does not live with us: Sure English makes its presence (similar to a tidal wave actually) but we ask it to leave, we ignore it, and sometimes even though we use it we don’t give it a single ounce of love. It’s just kind of there. Society does a fantastic job boosting its ego so we do not worry about English in the slightest. EVER.
- Spanish is love: I am constantly sharing with my daughters how Spanish is our language. I remind them that not all Latinx people speak Spanish, but they are still Latinx. I share that it is part of who we are as Latinx people and that is why I love speaking Spanish with them.
- Spanish is who we are: If it is not part of who you are or your family’s past it is very hard, I would argue impossible to pull off. We happen to love music in Spanish from different countries, watch TV and movies in Spanish or from Spanish speaking countries, and read in Spanish. Our family members and friends know Spanish. All of this helps in children’s investment in speaking Spanish.
- Language Awareness: Just like parents are advised to develop print awareness in young children, I believe in developing language awareness. I am always sharing with my daughters which friends speak Spanish and make an effort to make sure their doctors speak Spanish as well. I don’t necessarily ask them to speak to them in Spanish, I simply let them know that specific individuals know Spanish so that they can choose to speak it with them or not. This language awareness has helped in getting my daughter to recognize words in Spanish in society such as actual print media, etc.
This are just a few strategies I have learned about raising 3rd generation bilinguals in a city that mostly speaks English (at least the places and spaces I go to). I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to send my children to summer camps in Spanish, Spanish immersion daycares, and live in Ecuador. These experiences certainly boosted their investment in speaking Spanish, but I remind people that the actual work in raising them bilingually started in our home. I’ve had people say to me, “Oh, it’s cause you lived abroad and they went to a Spanish immersion school. That’s why they speak Spanish.” Yes, they did and it was a boost, BUT Marcus and I taught them Spanish. This journey started before they were born and we have made a HUGE concerted effort to expose them to our variations of Spanish (as we have different ones).
I have written similar posts in the past (as a form of an update) about our bilingual journey. I love to write (it’s really cathartic) and share our journey in order to inspire other Latinx or Chicanx parents. I have met numerous people from Chicanx or Latinx baungrounds hesitant in their ability to raise bilingual children and it is for them (para nuestra comunidad) that I continue to share our journey. Si se puede!
Lastly, Spanish was a gift we gave our daughters and one I hope will stay with them for a life time.
A CHILDREN’S BOOK THAT HONORS CHICANX STUDENTS CULTURAL AND LINGUISTIC HERITAGE
It was an honor to write a blog post promoting Isabel Quintero’s book, My Papi Has a Motorcycle, for many reasons, but one of them is because I also grew up in Southern California. The illustrations, Zeke Peña, created resonated with me because they reflected store icons, like the panadería, and murals, like the one about migrant workers marching for justicia, that I grew up seeing in my hometown of Santa Ana, CA. This multicultural and multilingual book, Mi Papi tiene una motocicleta (also available in Spanish) offers readers a description of the diverse linguistic and cultural background of a little girl, Daisy Ramona, and her father cruising through their (gentrifying) neighborhood.
The book starts off with Daisy describing her Papí and the kind of construction work he does, but also his love for motorcycles. The misconception that exists in our nation that bilingual and Latinx students “do not have the vocabulary they need to succeed in school” is problematized when Daisy says, “From [my Papí] I’ve learned words like carburetor and cariño, drill, and dedication.” Teachers could use this as a way to start a conversation with students about the kind of work their parents do. Teachers could invite parents into the classroom to share about their (cultural) funds of knowledge (Moll, 2005) related to their occupation or their cultural practices.
As a scholar and practitioner of bilingual education, this is also an ideal book to talk about gentrification and the implications it can have on communities of color. For example, the closing of the raspados (shaved ice) shop and the construction of new homes are both signs that a neighborhood is changing. Gentrification is the notion that by changing a neighborhood to reflect “White and middle class” norms, it is also perceived as an “improvement” to the existing community. Daisy gives readers a different perspective about her beloved community. The author and the illustrator do a wonderful job portraying what Daisy values about her unique barrio: the people who live there! Educators could also discuss the shops that are reflected in the book such as the tortillería, panadería,and the raspados y carnecería. These are iconic neighborhood stores in traditionally Mexican communities in the U.S. where pan dulce (sweet bread), tortillas, and raspados (shaved ice), and meat are sold.
Teachers could also use this book as an opportunity to invite other languages, like Spanish, into the classroom. Daisy is bilingual and draws from her linguistic repertoire to share about her Latinx friends, family and the community they live in Southern California. In fact, the use of Spanish and English is woven throughout the book in a way that elevates the status of Spanish, which is crucial especially in the U.S. context. Quintero literally placed Spanish above English when translated. Quintero also, at times, leaves out the English translation because it simply is not necessary, or perhaps she wrote the book with bilingual children in mind who do not need translations. Most importantly, Quintero uses Spanish and English in, what I like to think of as the authentic ways individuals from bilingual communities speak. For example, Daisy’s Papí asks a co-worker in Spanish, “Trabajando duro, muchachos?” and the co-worker responds in English, “A little bit, not too much.” They are using different languages, but understand one another and do not need to translate: linguistic brilliance.
I do hope all readers enjoy this book and are able to see it as either mirroring their own community or a window into another community and as an opportunity to learn about people who may be different than themselves. Lastly, my favorite part about this book was that it illustrated people of color doing everyday things in life and just being themselves. Those kind of high quality books about people of color are hard to come by! Isabel and Zeke, thank you for sharing such a beautiful story! I fell in love with it!
After attending the Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) convention this past week in Atlanta, GA and noticing how much “we” tend to place an immense amount of value on a certain kind “English,” I started thinking about the TWBE context. A context that is dear to my bilingual and Latinx heart as a former TWBE teacher, a parent with children in TWBE programs, and as an academic who has spent a large part of my time invested in this “ideal” form of bilingual education.
In the TWBE community, scholars and parents argue for Spanish to have a protected space in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong — I much prefer Spanish time over English and do think we need to place more value on Spanish than English (more to come below). A protective space for Spanish is a legit concern considering that English is overwhelmingly present – or, how I like to describe it, English is a huge tidal wave that sweeps everything and everyone with its powerful force. Here’s my issue with “protecting Spanish” or any other minoritized language in dual language classrooms, For whom are we protecting Spanish in TWBE programs? I cannot critique TWBE classrooms without personalizing my experience as a parent raising 3rd generation bilinguals (no small feat!) and as a heritage speaker of Spanish. My daughters, like many heritage speakers of Spanish, walked into their designated dual language program already bilingual. They are used to navigating multilingual spaces and are quite comfortable doing so. Speaking Spanish is like breathing air – an automatic response to being alive. Translanguaging is a way of being for them, it’s not a mystery to be explored and problematized. When we promote a designated time for Spanish or English (!!) we are drawing from the language practices and strategies that were designed for the White and monolingual English-speaking demographic. I think we should all follow Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (AOC) advice at SXSW and create our own spaces of agency, a sort of FUBU language policies, that reflect our history and language practices.
A more urgent point is that English does not need a protective space in the elementary TWBE programs (at least not until the upper elementary years)! As a parent raising 3rd generation multilingual daughters, I literally threw English out the door, in the trash can, and sent all our English children’s books to Goodwill (don’t really recommend doing that). I have made a huge concerted effort to raise the status of OUR Spanish. I would even argue that I’ve been pretty successful at helping my daughters value their Latinidad and bilingualism, BUT this could not have happened (for many reasons) had I let English have a “protected” space in our lives. English does not need a single centimeter of space – it naturally will consume every facet of your child’s life in the U.S. context (and others internationally).
In my Latinx and bilingual world, the TWBE program would be “heavily marketed” to communities of color who speak a variety of English(es). What I (re)imagine is that a beautiful and linguistically diverse group of students would get to continue to grow up as heritage speakers of [insert minoritized language] while building bridges between communities of color. *Communities of Color [for a reimagined] Two-way Bilingual Education (COC-TWBE)
White supremacy is an intricate part of the institutions we navigate and an ingrained part of our (un)conscious ways of being that it is highly unlikely that my ideal Latinx and bilingual world will come into fruition unfortunately (or any time soon). Until then, I will continue to use my own positionality as a mamá raising language warriors and a Latinx expert in bilingual education to #speakup and #standup for and with communities of colors who seek a more equitable two-way immersion bilingual education program.
#gentrificationTWBE #FUBU #LatinxLanguagePolicies #bilingualeducation #multilingualVIDA #TWBE #PhDLatina #protectedspacesforCOC #notsameassegregation #onourterms #Spanishonourterms #SpanishRights #SpanishasResistence #reclaimingSpanish #sisepuede
Just read an article about “Bilingualism and Age,” which got me thinking about my daughter’s language exposure and development:
Sabrina was born into a home where both parents spoke in Spanish to her (direct input), but we spoke (and continue to do so) in mostly English to each other with some Spanish. Her daycare was a Spanish immersion one (so more direct Spanish spoken to her), BUT that is where she learned the most English because her peers spoke in English to her. Socially, she spoke in Spanish to us and any other little kid her age (1-2 1/2 years old). At 2 1/2 she entered an English-speaking school and in 3 months her English was (arguably) as strong as her Spanish. English became a tidal wave for us that we continue to deal with.
Siena was born into a home where both parents spoke in Spanish to her (direct input), but we spoke (and continue to do so) in mostly English to each other with some Spanish. Sabrina initially spoke in Spanish to her little sister because she believed Siena only knew Spanish. This worked really well for some time, but as time went (Siena learning to speak) by, English took over like a huge tidal wave between their relationship. Siena heard English and Spanish directed at her way more than Sabrina ever did. At 2 1/2 she entered a Spanish immersion school and at 3 years old she started a new school which was Chinese immersion. Two years later, Siena is what I would call a full blown simultaneous bilingual.
Sabrina and Siena’s language experiences have been so different even though we have lived in the same home. They both lived in Ecuador, but even that experience was distinct for both of them, Siena heard more Spanish and Sabrina heard and used both seamlessly. Although both girls would be considered simultaneous bilinguals, they are both such different users of their languages. I think Sabrina leans more toward a sequential bilingual because she learned English later, but it is definitely a fine line.
Either way, both girls function, live, and breathe with their 2-3 languages. I cannot imagine how their identity would change if they were asked to ONLY speak English. It would be like asking them to hold their breathe or to hide who they really are. Sadly, this experience happens to many young children in the U.S.
Their development as multilingual individuals has truly been one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I don’t think we could have come this far had I not had a Ph.D. in bilingual education because people like me, 2nd generation Mexican immigrant, use of Spanish, bilingualism has been so stigmatized in this country. This is one of the reasons why I am determined to hone in on strategies that support bilingualism in the 3rd generation. It is our time to reclaim what was always ours, the Spanish language, and very much a part of who we are.
#multilingualVIDA #bilingualism #languagewarriors #raisingbilingualkids
As someone who identifies as an academic that “researches” the very demographic that is currently being attacked at the border, my sense of obligation to #speakup, #standup, and #resist with and for immigrants has never been stronger.
I think Lourdes Ortega’s question (the title of this blog post), For what and for whom is our research?, is really poignant right now. I don’t think I could ethically write, speak, and create research about a certain demographic and not also do the hard work of an activist, advocate, or ally. I don’t even think I do enough as it is. I want to encourage my fellow colleagues (some of whom are really vocal and active as it is when it comes to supporting marginalized communities) to reflect and re-examine what and how we do what we do in academia.
I am taking a risk here by publicaly making this request or assertion because I am what is considered in academia a junior faculty member, but also in a marginalized position as a “visiting” or adjunct professor. We are living during times where these kind of questions/assertions/requests must be asked. I am willing to take that risk. Compared to others, I have very little to lose. #pueblounido #heavyheart #somossemillas #keepfamiliestogether
Speaking Spanish for us does not begin at 7:45 am and end at 2:57 pm. Speaking Spanish for us is NOT “a lesson.” It’s not a “time period.” It’s not a temporary thing. Spanish isn’t something that happens out of coincidence. I wouldn’t even say that it’s how we “naturally” communicate.
Spanish for us is a right. Spanish for us is reclaiming what was practically lost. Spanish for us is life. It heals our identity and colonized past. Spanish is something we live, breathe, and are constantly trying to revive. Spanish is a memory that I am always and forever trying to hold on to in positive ways. Spanish is how we survive and pass down our Latinx culture.
You can learn Spanish, but you will never get our culture. You see, our culture isn’t something you can teach. It has to be a part of your everyday, your past and present, and in your blood.
This is what it is like when you live your life in a dual language program that has been gentrified. It can be like a constant reminder that “the colonizer” is ever present. So, what do we do? We hold on tight and speak Spanish proudly and loudly despite the dominance of English. #bilingualVIDA
On the day I became a Mexican National, December 15, 2017, I was filled excitement and like a piece of my heart was beginning to heal. I, of course, posted it on Facebook and got many congratulations. I knew that some people may not find my decision to become a Mexican National as making a lot or any sense. In fact, I was asked, “What is the point? How does it benefit you?”
I cannot help but note that I hardly think I would get the same response IF the dual citizenship was with a more “elitist,” perhaps more Eurocentric, country. For me, as a Chicana, Mexican-American, some would even say, Pocha, becoming a Mexican National was very symbolic. This decision is the same reason I decided to raise my daughters with Spanish. It is a very political and deliberate move to fight back against oppression. It is my way of bridging the two worlds I have straddled my entire life: Spanish and English speaker, American and Mexican. It makes my hyphenated identity official. In my heart it was always official, but now I have a symbolic and tangible representation of its significance in my heart, mind and soul.
In many ways, I no longer have to justify to others how and why I AM MEXICAN and how and why I am ALSO “American.” I can simply say, “I am both. I am both an “American” and Mexican citizen.”
Punto y ya.