"Be good, do good, live long in peace." --DJ 

Spanish: To Speak
or Not To Speak

By Don Jibaro Orlando
As a Hispanic or Latino parent... ¿Am I frustrated, checkmated, forlorn, discontented, discouraged, embittered, flummoxed, irked, resentful, stonewalled, stymied, thwarted and ungratified because my children won't learn Spanish? No! Let me explain...

I once I had a visitor who brought along his daughter so he could play with my daughter while he visited. I noticed that he gave instructions to the child in Spanish, to which the daughter responded in Spanish... She went on to play with my daughter, asking questions about toys. She asked them in perfect English.

My friend asked me if my daughter spoke Spanish and I said no. He then retorted: "Why not?"

I went on to explain that the primary language we used in our home was English, and that Spanish was secondary. I had to explain that because in our society English is the primary language... all business, education and social events are conducted in English. Consequently, I insisted that my kids spoke primarily the language of the land. You see... my friend and his family are from Mexico and Spanish is the primary language in their home. Since they have very little command of the English Language, it's evidently obvious that in order to expedite understanding, communication is in the language they all dominate: Spanish.

In my home, the primary language is English. My primary language is Spanish. So if I spoke to them in Spanish she would have to engage in mental translation of terms before execution, kinda like I do with English when I'm in a grammatical jam. That's not easy, believe me. I've done it and it is work... it takes effort and skill.

So when will my kids speak Spanish, the language of my ancestors? They will do so when it's required that they do so... at very limited times in Los Angeles, CA, my part of United States where I live. You see, 87% of community activity in L.A. is conducted in English.

About half of all children of Hispanic immigrants speak at least some Spanish, but must be enrolled in school where Spanish is secondary. That's how my friend's kid spoke both Spanish and English fluently. Spanish is compulsory in the home at the same time that English is compulsory at School... for at least 6 hours every day!

Yet still, many Hispanic parents say they struggle to preserve the language at home, even in a region where Spanish beams from airwaves and beckons from storefront signs. English is the language of the land. No doubt.

While California boasts a large concentration of Spanish speakers —roughly 20 percent of the population over age 5 speak Spanish or a variation at home — experts say a strong command of the language wanes with the second and third generations. English-only advocates say that's a welcome result of assimilation. Don Jibaro says you can circumvent that by making Spanish exotic in your home, a language of romance and mysticism that will awaken their imagination and interest.

Case in point: my 31 yr old daughter got a whim to go to Spain and learn a better Spanish than the one she already knew. In the twinkling of an eye and before you could say "disestablishmentarianism", she went to Madrid via London and Rome. She got herself one month of lessons and came back before you could say "This mouth is mine." She loved it!

Parents trying to raise bilingual children worry that a strong sense of cultural identity and job prospects are at stake for Hispanic youth who speak little or no Spanish. Not to a Puerto Rican! Are we not Boricuas? ...even if we were born on the moon?

Families of Mexican immigrants bemoan the fact that their children can barely roll their R's... like in "charrasqueado". They feel that to emphasize Spanish will be detrimental... that they will be closing doors as far as careers go. Not so. You can do both, like my friend's daughter. Just prioritize the language of the land.

Others use rewards to encourage young children to respond to them in Spanish. The children win points every time they speak Spanish, and accumulated points can lead to a prize at the end of the week... ¡Unreal!

Data from a 2002 study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation show that 47 percent of second-generation Hispanics are bilingual. That figure appears high, but community advocates say many Hispanics who are conversational in Spanish lack basic grammatical skills and vocabulary. Furthermore, the number of bilingual Hispanics drops to 20 percent in the third generation... then, the language morphs into Spanglish, a vernacular mix of English and Spanish.

Raul Martinez, who is Puerto Rican, worries that a strong command of Spanish, both written and verbal, is hard to find among Hispanic youth. He is from Aspira of Florida, Inc., an agency that sponsors programs and provides scholarships for them.


"There's this notion that if you come from a Spanish background, you don't need Spanish as a foreign language at school," said Martinez. "Many Hispanic kids aren't learning Spanish diction, language, grammar and verb conjugation."

BUT I say... some Hispanic parents don't care one iota whether their kids speak Spanish or not. But as they enter adulthood in a Spanish-rich state (like California or Florida), some second-generation Hispanics regret their English-only upbringing.

There's no doubt that if you speak Spanish you'll have more career opportunities. So, go ahead and ask your mother or father to start speaking to you in Spanish. There's always time. It's an additional blessing. Studies have revealed that children who lose touch with their parents' language often feel rootless. They lose a vital connection to the family, as a ship at sea without an anchor. ¿Me entiendes?

Velma Rios, a local teacher says:
"Yes, there are better opportunities, especially in Education and in Business, if you can speak and write in Spanish, too. I earn 5% more each month because I have a Certificate of Competency....I can teach the Spanish language as well as the English language."

All in all, en conclusión y para terminar...Spanish is a language that, when spoken correctly, transforms both the speaker and the listener. It is a "Romance (or Romantic) Language"...and FYI, the most widely spoken Romance language by native speakers today is... Guess? Yup! Spanish... followed by Portuguese, French, Italian and Romanian, all of which are main and official national languages in more than one country.

Peace and Prosperity,
Don Jíbaro Orlando


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nor finds fault with our work.” —(2 Corinthians 6:3)  

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