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)