Bilingual education

Opposition to bilingual education in the US rarely amounts to more than a distaste for "Mexicans" and all other Latinos. Some English-speakers are offended only by the sound of Spanish words, feeling that such differences do not "fit in." I happen to like Latinos and want more of them around. To me they're like family, the people I grew up with. I also happen to enjoy hearing other languages. They broaden my world and experiences. So I am offended, rather, by bigots who want to limit the languages I can use. If I want to speak ancient Latin or Esperanto, isn't that my business? Don't some of these bigots claim to be libertarians, opponents of intrusive authority? What kind of liberty censors entire languages?

In fact, I claim that bilingual education should be mandatory for everyone. The monolingual are disinclined to have any thought not commonly spoken. They have no idea how small their world is. Culture is preserved and conveyed through language.

To enjoy a new language you must cut loose from your old world, and accept the new one as complete in itself. You must study the people who created and use the language. You must judge yourself by the standards of this new culture.

At first, you only notice how a new language carries assumptions that would not fit into your old world. The virtues of this new world take much longer to appreciate (perhaps only after you leave it again and compare to your own). Observe the reactions to your own behavior. Suddenly you are the misfit, with strange habits and opinions. You try to justify yourself with clumsy words. You say that your behavior is perfectly normal where you come from, but you can't explain why. You sound perfectly obtuse. Getting the idea? Isn't this how all foreigners behave?

Bill Harlan, 2006

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