Why many won´t say they speak Spanish

photo credit: roboppy via photopin cc
photo credit: roboppy via photopin cc
When I read that Hispanics use English more and more I get a little defensive. As any other immigrant group, Hispanics tend to blend into the new culture over time, but let´s not push it: Spanish has already too many challenges to survive in this country.

When my 5 year old daughter was placed in an English learners program because she did not speak a word of English I never paid attention to those friends who advised me not to disclose that we spoke Spanish at home. I happily and proudly stated every year that we were Spanish speakers. Then, my second child was born.

He was raised bilingual and attended a 100% English speaking daycare for more than 2 years. After kindergarten, we moved to a different school district and came back to the Cupertino School District when he had just started second grade. The district decided he had to be tested for English because I stated Spanish was the language spoken at home in the registration form, as always. And I was told he had failed the test. He did not know words like “mane”.

They placed him in an ESL class, the same one his sister had attended when she was a newcomer who knew 0 English. When the year was over, his teacher recommended to transfer him to main stream classes because his English was good. By then, he was so much behind in reading and writing that his new main stream teacher gave me a grade retention warning.

I never ever stated that we spoke Spanish at home in any school, activity or YMCA registration paper again. I even refuse to state ethnicity.

Only one year later the school episode, I had a similar situation at work, where I was offered to answer a survey in Spanish, among 20 other languages because we are global. As a new thing that year, they decided to share the answers anonymously, but since mine were the only answers in Spanish they clearly pointed at me and two other co-workers who were not very happy under the unexpected spotlight.

I used to select the option for Spanish, everywhere, always. I did it because I think it is a great language, -it is my language!- and by doing so I hoped I was helping some jobs out there, including mine.

Now I fear a backlash. It is much easier to leave Spanish in the corner of culture decorations: taking kids to Spanish class, reading books in Spanish, understand Mexican restaurant menus… and that´s about it. Don´t go so far that it could hurt you. How misleading can the result of a survey be.

Clarisse Céspedes

Journalist and Content Strategist. SEO, sponsorships and video. Follow me on Facebook and @ClarisseCespede.

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