[Edling] US: Research Shows Spanish Speakers Take Longer To Learn English. Why?

David Balosa dbalosa1 at umbc.edu
Sat Sep 23 11:14:34 EDT 2017

Is there any Human Reason Why Spanish Children Are Resisting Learning
English in Comparison with Other Minority English Learners in the United
States: Can a More Humanizing Language Policy (official Bilingualism) Be
the Solution?

In his article "On the Limits of Ethnolinguistic Democracy", (Fishman 1995,
p. 49) revealed how in December 11, 1990, the European Community's
Parliament adopted the "principle of complete multilingualism" with respect
to its own operations. Fishman brings up an interesting detail that applied
linguists should appreciate unless they want to position themselves as
"hidden agents of language tyranny" mindsets  (Mustafa, 2015).

Fishman wrote that, "admittedly, the European Community's Parliament'
resolution was adopted due to Catalan pressure as evidenced by 100, 00
signatures delivered to the president of the EC's European Parliament in
1987, in support of granting Catalan some sort of official standing in the
European Community  organization operations" (pp. 49-50).

What is of critical importance in Fishman's argument here is that this
resolution was possible because the people involved had finally understood
the sociopolitical and the moral responsibility represented by this issue,
that is,  a more humanizing language policy: "to be consistent with the
respect which is owed to dignity of all languages which reflect and express
the cultures of the different peoples who make up the European Community.

*Spanish sociopolitical Agency*

1. The United State is since July 2015, the second largest Spanish speaking
country (only Mexico has more speakers). The U.S. Census mentions that as
of July 1, 2016  the U. S. Spanish speaking population is 57.5 million.

2. The world hit (song) 2017 "despacito" is in Spanish

3. Non of these other children ethnic groups that research compare to
Spanish children has more than 10 TV Stations or radio stations and a
significant number of newspaper  like Spanish does.
How could the humanity (the awareness of human dignity) of these children
not to be awakened and not to tell them to resist the "covert
agenda"(Crawford, 2008, p. 8) that the language policy in the United States
tries to implement within  their education?

* Lived Experience*
In 20015, at Luiz Munoz Elementary School in Philadelphia, I had three 6th
grade ESOL kids who once claimed " A nos no le gustamos daquella maestra
por que a ella no legusta que nosotos hablemos en la idioma de nosotros.
Entoce nosotros tambien no queremos ablar el Ingles"
(We don't like that teacher because she does not like to hear us speaking
in our language, so we decided no to speak English.). I said, " pero
ustedes devem ablar el ingles para tener buenas notas y tambiem por el
futuro" (You should try to speak English in order for you to have good
grades and for your the future.) The 3 kids answered: " a nos no nos
importa- se ella no quiere hablar la idioma de nosotros porque nos vamos
ablar la idioma della. ( We don't care, if she does not want to speak our
language why should we speak hers?).

These kids may be too young to understand why they still need to learn
English for their individual welfare and social identity in a multicultural
society like the United States, but one should also appreciate the
"sociopolitical agency of Spanish" influence in their resistance. Again the
community, the international proximity, and everyday  life support that
this sociopolitical agency enjoys is not the same with any other minority
languages involved in learning English in the United States. May be  a
genuine bilingual education program (Garcia, 2009)  might have had a
different attitude in these children. Or a "judicious handling" of these
children's interactions in their L1 might have made the difference and
might have solved this conflict (Balosa, 2006, 31).

Fishman has made an appeal to resist the mindset that opposes what he
called "ethnolinguistic democracy", that is "to be consistent with the
respect which is owed to the dignity of all languages which reflect and
express the cultures of different peoples" who make up a given society.
Fishman thought it was "the responsibility of all of us to resist the loss
or (the attempt to contribute to the loss) of any language. It is also the
responsibility of the largest and most secure languages to respond
constructively and magnanimously to this universal problem in human
cultural-ecology" (p. 61). The question that we may ask ourselves now is :
what is constructive and magnanimous in failing to guarantee a political
legitimacy to linguistic minority rights especially for those with
significant number of native speakers, case of Spanish(57.5 million) in the
United States? Should all minority languages start engaging in pressuring
for their linguistic rights like the Catalan did in order to obtain their
official recognition by the European Community's Parliament?

Food for thought for applied linguist at the age of human dignity crisis. I
think a solid and vibrant emphasis on a  sociopolitical and moral argument
like Fishman's  " etholinguistic democracy" has been missing in language
policy debate in the United States. May be President Trump's position on
assimilation will help some minority language speakers understand how to
proceed if they are to secure their linguistic rights.


On Sat, Sep 23, 2017 at 3:44 AM, Francis Hult <francis.hult at englund.lu.se>

> NPR Ed
> Research Shows Spanish Speakers Take Longer To Learn English. Why?
> A recent study out of Philadelphia tracked kindergartners who were
> learning English and found that four years later there were major
> discrepancies between which groups of students had mastered the language.
> Students whose home language was Spanish were considerably less likely to
> reach proficiency than any other subgroup. And, on the extreme end, Spanish
> speakers were almost half as likely as Chinese speakers to cross the
> proficiency threshold.
> Full story:
> http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/09/15/545629043/
> research-shows-spanish-speakers-take-longer-to-learn-english-why
> _______________________________________________
> Edling mailing list
> Edling at bunner.geol.lu.se
> http://bunner.geol.lu.se/mailman/listinfo/edling

*David M. Balosa, Ph.D. candidate in Language, Literacy & Culture *

Interculturalists GSO President 2012-2013
*University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
**1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250*


The world would be a better place if we all strive for communities'
prosperity, solidarity and social justice, unity within diversity and human
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