Could the United States become bilingual?

Could the U.S. become bilingual?

Could the U.S. become bilingual? (shutterstock)

Luis Clemens in his well-crafted, and truly thought-provoking post in CodeSwitch (April 28, 2013), hits us hard with the question: “Will Spanish survive as a language widely spoken by Latinos in the United States?” My answer is “no”, as I have stated often in several of my writings… but I have a plausible and arguable scheme to make it survive.

Luis Clemens’ arguments can be found in my earlier post at VOXXI, “Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby’s misguided fears of Spanish,” where I discuss Gabriel Gomez’s run for the US senate, speaking “lousy” Spanish, as Mr. Clemens calls inadequate knowledge of the language. In his article Luis Clemens charges against actor Vin Diesel.

He is right: by third generation, Spanish, or any other language, becomes so diluted it ends up boiling down to “gracias”, “mi gente” and other similar expressions. He also points out that “Certainly, there are thousands and thousands of Latino parents who are working hard to ensure the language of Cervantes thrives in the United States.” In my article “Keeping the Hispanic Heritage”, VOXXI, July 25, 2012, I explained about the University of California, Riverside, and Dr. James Parr’s efforts to bring Hispanics to Madrid to improve their Spanish Language and learn about their roots. No small feat. But the effort is there.

Many Hispanics know the power of knowledge and wish their children to be bilingual in the real sense of the word, and desperately try to keep up both languages under very adverse conditions.

At the same time, many English-speakers are also aware of the advantage of bilingualism and are making heroic efforts to get their offspring to learn Spanish, a world language with a great future. Many go to Argentina, Ecuador, Spain, and Mexico, to practice the language, trying to acquire a native-like command of it. And now comes my scheme:

The US has now over 50 million people of Hispanic descent who hail from many different countries and many of them are native speakers of Spanish who use the language on a daily basis. After Mexico, the US has the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. This is a truly enviable situation that could very well be exploited to make the country as bilingual as possible. Far-fetched you may think.

The US could become a mutual-integration society if schools implemented bilingual education, just as many countries are trying to do. Spain, for example, has embarked on a bilingual curriculum for children… but, alas, Spain does not have many native English-speaking immigrants with whom to practice in real-life situations, on a daily basis.

Bilingual education

All children in, say, Los Angeles, could attend bilingual schools, where History, Math, Geography, are taught in both languages. Children would read literature and write essays in both languages… and on the streets they could practice both English and Spanish.

That would be assimilation in reverse and in a few years we would find a generation of Americans conversant and proficient in two languages, and from then on all would be easy as pie. This experiment has never been done anywhere yet. Eventually the US would be able to take advantage of the rise of the Latin economies of 22 countries, being part of them linguistically.

It is good to let our fantasy glide in the air, to dream, to daydream, because as the Bard told us in The Tempest (Act 4, scene 1):

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

And Calderón de la Barca also told us that La vida es sueño, life is a dream.

Why not dream of a bilingual, English and Spanish, United States of America?

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