Oct 032002
Authors: Colleen Buhrer

What is wrong with speaking English and Spanish? Proponents of Amendment 31 think that bilingual education should be banned. The amendment will be on the November ballot for voters across Colorado to vote on. I say vote no.

When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher told us one day about her experience of coming to America from Cuba. Se/ora was kindergarten age when her parents shipped her and her sister to the United States. They were immediately thrown into an English school where they were expected to just keep up. This was the version of English immersion they were exposed to.

Se/ora has said that the experience was terrifying. It was much hard to keep up in regular classes even after she had learned English. She now fully supports bilingual education.

Bilingual education creates an opportunity for students speaking primarily Spanish to continue to be educated while becoming proficient in English. I do not see a problem with this. How can an instance of children learning two languages be a bad thing?

In many cases the students did not choose to live in Colorado or to grow up speaking Spanish. That is a decision that parents make.

The kids can be traumatized enough by being and living in a place where they don’t fully understand the language. Se/ora and her sister certainly were. English immersion classes just make matters worse. This amendment penalizes the children for something they had no control over.

This can make things much harder for Latinos that live in much of Colorado. By making students take English immersion classes it also hurts other areas that they need education in. Most bilingual education programs teach other areas of education in Spanish, while still teaching English along the way. Can you imagine how hard it would be to learn math, science or even social studies for that matter in a different language? The children should be able to learn both languages. As long as they learn English along the way, there is no problem with bilingual education.

The question of why bilingual education is not offered for languages other than Spanish is something that needs to be changed. But for now the majority of children that speak a different language in the home, speak Spanish.

In Colorado, 17.1 percent of the population is of Hispanic or Latino origin, according to the March 2000 census. Furthermore, 15.1 percent speak a language other than English in the home. These people are still all US citizens. Amendment 31 would unfairly single out these parts of the Colorado population.

Gov. Bill Owens also said Amendment 31 should not be passed. He says that making English proficiency a priority is a good thing, but Amendment 31 is very different from English immersion programs in other states.

I agree that English proficiency is important, because, yes, English is the language of the United States, but if students are being given the opportunity to speak both English and Spanish I see no reason to stop them.

Bilingual classes can teach the children to speak English with less harm. So I say if you are voting in November, vote no on Amendment 31.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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