Bilingual Broward

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Mar 13 14:13:22 UTC 2006

>>From the Miami Herald, Posted on Sun, Mar. 12, 2006


Special to The Miami Herald


No English? No problem. Such is the message of hope given by the Broward
County Public Schools ESOL/Foreign Language/Bilingual Department to
parents of Broward children who are ESOL students. The Feb. 25 daylong
seminar at the Signature Grand in Davie, called the Bilingual Parent
Institute: The Magic of ESOL, opened doors for non-English-speaking
parents through workshops presented in Spanish, Haitian Creole and
Portuguese in the areas of mathematics, reading and navigating the school
system. ''You don't have to fear that because you don't know English that
you can't help your kids,'' said Yvette Fernandez, a specialist in parent
outreach for the Bilingual/Foreign Language/ESOL Education Department.
``We show parents how to provide assistance for students in their native
language. Research shows that all the skills acquired in their native
language transfer to English.''

Initially, the Bilingual Parent Institute, now in its sixth year, was
sponsored by a grant called Project Connection to involve the parents of
students in English for speakers of other languages programs in their
children's education. Later, it was considered so successful in explaining
the nature of ESOL and its value so great to the academic community that
the department chose to continue without the grant, Fernandez said. ''It
introduces parents to the strategies we use to teach students English
until they become proficient -- not street language but the academic
language, so their kids can compete at the same level as any
English-speaking students,'' Fernandez said. Speakers explained the five
components of math and reading, such as developing an oral base instead of
relying solely on phonics to teach kids how to read.

Lynda Franco, an ESOL education specialist, said even a simple coloring
book without words can help children gain a wide language base. ''Ask your
child what this page looks like, what the characters are doing and to tell
you a little story about the pictures in it,'' Franco said, holding up a
coloring book. ``That stimulates their vocabulary.'' The program also
provided information on ESOL conferences in individual schools so kids can
become bilingual.

The theme now, Franco said, is not the ''melting pot'' but the ``salad
bowl.'' 'First, we wanted everyone to assimilate, say, `Now you are no
longer who you were but are one of us,' '' she said. 'Now we see it's
better to enculturate them. Like, in the `salad bowl' theory, you are a
tomato and you add to the salad, and without you it is bland but you
always stay a tomato. What unites everybody is the dressing. And the
dressing is English.'' Fernandez, of Puerto Rican descent, said she
herself had ESOL kids. She returned to Puerto Rico to study law and
married. When she brought her children back to the United States to be
educated, she became actively involved in the department.

Fernandez said research has shown many benefits in being bilingual, such
as a study showing that a bilingual person, upon suffering a stroke, may
lose the second language but retain the native tongue. ''We emphasize that
the parents should continue the native language at home and insist on
respect for their culture and heritage,'' she said. A Bilingual Parent
Institute website, with information in three languages, is scheduled debut
this spring. For now, information can be accessed through www.broward Click on the ''Departments'' link on the left side, then on
Bilingual/Foreign Language/ESOL Education Department.


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