Quien sabe dos lenguas vale por dos. (Translation: He who knows two languages doubles his worth.)
Language as culture isn’t easily taught or accepted, and I find myself surrounded by examples daily.
At the Unity ’94 convention of minority journalists in Atlanta this summer, an African American instructor admitted she had done her best to discourage a Chicana student from researching bilingual education. ”I just didn’t see a reason for it,” the teacher said. ”In the U.S. everyone should speak English.” Her student remained adamant. But the student’s report changed the teacher’s views.
Bilingual education has been debated since 1880, when public debate first arose over instructing students in German in St. Louis and Cincinnati. This year, Los Angeles has students and instructors speaking and teaching in more than 180 languages. In Denver Padres Unidos and the Latino Education Coalition are working to improve bilingual education.
Several books address the bilingual question:
* Bilingual Education: History, Politics, Theory, and Practice (Bilingual Educational Services, Inc., 210 pages, $ 21 paperback) – Author James Crawford examines the controversial history and politics of bilingual education.
* Critical Perspectives on Bilingual Education Research (Bilingual Press, 426 pages, $ 20 paperback) – Editors Raymond V. Padilla and Alfredo H. Benavides collect informative essays and research data on theories and studies on implementation and application of various bilingual programs.
* Language Diversity: Problem or Resource? (Heinle and Heinle Publishers, 386 pages, $ 21 paperback) – Editors Sandra Lee Wong and Sau-Ling Cynthia Wong collect essays on the impact of bilingual education on ethnic groups.
Lawyer Ed Steinman will offer an informative lesson on bilingual education at 9 a.m. Friday at the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education conference in Vail. He also willspeak at 7 p.m., Saturday at Cheltenham Elementary School in Denver.
Steinman was the counsel for the plaintiffs in the Kinney Kimmon Lau vs. Nichols case of 1974, in which the Supreme Court ruled ”simple justice requires that public funds to which all taxpayers of all races, contribute not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes, or results in racial discrimination.”
Steinman has served on the California Association for Bilingual Educators and since 1972 has been a law professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, where he teaches constitutional law and civil rights.
Also speaking will be Stephen Krashen, who developed the first comprehensive theory of second-language acquisition and authored The Power of Reading. He will be the guest speaker Saturday at the CABE conference luncheon. Information: Annette Gaddis, 573-5098.
Both Steinman and Krashen will answer questions on language and education, which reminds me of the response Chilean author Isabel Allende (The House of the
Spirits) gave when asked if she wrote in English now that she had learned the language. Her reply: ”No. I write in Spanish. I dream in Spanish. I have sex in Spanish. I can’t imagine having sex in English.”