[lg policy] Spelling bee with a Spanish flair

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 15 20:09:10 UTC 2012

Spelling bee with a Spanish flair

Contest helps adults learn to read in their native language

Lucas Maldonado, 63, a tailor who has a painful limp, slowly spelled out
“goloso” (greedy)
and sighed with relief. Trancito Hernandez, 29, a waiter who once could not
write his own
name, worked through “orgulloso” (proud) and “comunidad” (community).
Martinez, 41, nailed “guerra” (war) and then “explicacion” (explanation),
grinning as he r
emembered to mention the accent on the “o.”

Mario Gamboa consoles eliminated contestant Maria Torres at Monday night’s
Spanish spelling bee.
Technically, these three Washington area immigrants from El Salvador were
the top winners in Monday night’s sixth annual Spanish spelling bee, held
at the Latin American Youth Center in Northwest Washington as part of a
nonprofit Spanish-language literacy program for adults.

But by any real definition of success, there were no losers at the event.
All 25 contestants came to the United States with little or no education
and spent years living in a double linguistic limbo. They took menial jobs
with limited formal interaction or instruction. Their children filled out
English-language forms for them. Their neighbors read them letters in
Spanish from home.



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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