[lg policy] 5 Reasons Why Xenophobic “English-Only” Biases Undermine Our Kids’

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat Jun 3 10:44:40 EDT 2017

 5 Reasons Why Xenophobic “English-Only” Biases Undermine Our Kids’
Education, Job Prospects
By Elisa <https://www.dailykos.com/user/Elisa>
Thursday Jun 01, 2017 · 12:18 PM EST
75 Comments (75 New)
[image: BERLIN - SEPTEMBER 18: A second-grade a child shows holds a
photograph of a circuit board in a book about robots in the elementary
school at the John F. Kennedy Schule dual-language public school on
September 18, 2008 in Berlin, Germany. The German government will host a
summit on education in Germany scheduled for mid-October in Dresden.
Germany has consistantly fallen behind in recent years in comparison to
other European countries in the Pisa education surveys, and Education
Minister Annette Schavan is pushing for an 8 percent increase in the
national educaiton budget for 2009. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)]
This picture was taken at the John F. Kennedy dual-language school in
Berlin, Germany. According to a recent article in the Financial Times,
Germany's economy has grown at its quickest rate in 5 years, at a time the
country has embraced mass immigration...and multilingualism.
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Donald Trump’s openly anti-Hispanic rhetoric
– for which he has never apologized --  has only fueled anti-Latino
sentiment and racist acts in the country. Take for instance, the verbal
abuse of Hispanics who speak Spanish in public.

In one recent incident, a white woman verbally assaulted a Hispanic man
at a Sprint store in Virginia, threatening him with physical violence and
telling him to “go back to Mexico.” The video, which was viewed by
millions, ended with the woman ranting, “So disrespectful speaking another
language in my country.”

Her outburst reveals an historic and deep-seated bias against non-English
speakers <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-only_movement> and
immigrants, and a lost opportunity for the United States – *our *country,
not just hers – to remain relevant in an ever changing and competitive
global economy.

Being bilingual isn’t an assault on American values, but a growing necessity
for anyone who simply wants to work and function in the world.

I grew up in a Spanish-speaking household, and am eternally grateful to my
proud Cuban father who insisted that we speak Spanish to him. Being
bilingual has proven an asset on the job, allowing for me to be hired as a
translator, reporter and digital organizer in bilingual communities. In
fact, it’s one of the first things I mention in my resume. U.S. workplaces
love bilingual people!

Because of my experiences, I always knew that I would raise my children to
be bilingual. Once they were born, my husband and I switched to speaking
Spanish in the home. We also helped found a Spanish immersion school in
Oakland, California so that they would learn to read and write it as well.
Not only do they have the foundation to someday find work in the United
States, but overseas!

But what about the “national identity” of the United States? Trump
supporters frequently ask
. Won’t the country decline into chaos if everyone speaks a different
White Americans might fear the loss of some idyllic anglo saxon or white
“identity,” but as a Latina who is every bit as American as any Trump
supporter, I can only say that the U.S. Hispanic community very much
embodies American values: love of country and family, a strong work ethic,
and entrepreneurialism.

That we will sink into some abyss because of multiculturalism and
multilingualism couldn’t be further from the truth. Among the many proven
benefits of bilingualism are the following:

*1. Students learning more than one language outperform English-only
students…in English*. It may seem counterintuitive, but studies show that
bilingual instruction actually makes you more proficient in English
. According to Stanford University: “The results show that while students
in English immersion programs perform better in the short term, over the
long term students in classrooms taught in two languages not only catch up
to their English immersion counterparts, but they eventually surpass them,
both academically and linguistically.”

*2. There are cognitive benefits to speaking more than one language.* Related
to the above <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583091/>,
“Researchers have shown that the bilingual brain can have better attention
and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain.” This is due to
the bilingual brain’s flexibility in switching off one language to engage
in another.
*3. Being Multilingual makes for more empathetic people*. Particularly relevant
in the era of Brexit and Trump, children from multilingual households are
able to take in multiple perspectives
and communicate in ways that take into consideration the points of view of
others. The good news is a child doesn’t have to be fully bilingual to
attain this benefit: researchers found that simply being exposed to other
languages helped kids in “perspective-taking.”

*4. Being bilingual can delay Alzheimer’s, dementia*. Alzheimers.net has
compiled two studies
 “More studies need to be done to know exactly why this happens, though
some researchers suggest that switching between two languages requires a
specific area of the brain that, when exercised, can delay dementia.”

*5. Bilingual workers benefit and help fuel the U.S. economy*. Between 2010
and 2015, demand for bilingual workers more than doubled from 240,000 job
postings to 630,000
fact, elected leaders from both major political parties and some of our
country’s top businesses and non-profit organizations have come together to
launch “a multi-year campaign aimed at reversing the nation’s language
skills gap and making language learning a national priority. The campaign
seeks to build awareness about the growing importance of language skills to
a wide array of careers – and to our nation’s economy, national security
and international standing – with the ultimate goal of supporting a new
generation of Americans equipped to compete and succeed in the global

As a Hispanic mom in the era of Trump, I’ve found myself telling my kids
that speaking Spanish or being Latino is not a crime in this country. We
are every bit as American and deserving to be here as any Trump supporter.
And in fact, we have a leg up over our xenophobic counterparts. We are
bilingual, which is the future of this country…and the world.


 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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