Second-Gen Latinx: Rescuing Bilingualism

by Diana Santana

How come your children do not fluently speak Spanish like you do? When a person asked me this question a few years ago, I felt the need to stop to do some self-reflection to respond with a better answer than “It’s just easier…” I realized I was not raising my children to embrace my native language like my parents did before I moved to the United States. As a Latina mom who came to this country pursuing the so-called “American Dream” for the sake of her children, I knew that part of that dream would not be possible if I was not willing to fully-emerged using the most spoken language in this nation. However, as I was getting to know more immigrant parents and noticing how their children were being raised leaving their Spanish behind, I started educating myself to educate others along the way. In my journey, I learned that if some research has shown that bilingualism not only could get us a higher-paid job but also the possibility to improve our mental health, then why not to teach my children to speak Español. Nonetheless, the reasons why Latinx not follow these researches that easily could be due to one important matter: Inclusion.

A Sense of Community and Inclusion Despite our Accents

The Community Psychologists, Geoffrey Nelson and Isaac Prilleltensky (2010) claim that a community helps to “fill human needs for support and connection” (p. 37). However, when a group of individuals encounter discrimination not only based on their appearance but also their accent, this sense of belonging and inclusion could easily fade and involuntarily transform into cultural assimilation or isolation.

Pew Research Center claims that 65% Latinx (ages 18-29) have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment based on their race or ethnicity. As an example, one of the most popular job-search website states that employers tend to make judgments based on their prospective employees’ accents. “Not only may someone with a Hispanic accent be deemed ‘less educated,’ but someone with a British accent may be seen as ‘more intelligent’,” Monster claims. Thank goodness, the times are changing!

Whom from our ancestors would have thought that the Latinx population would be reaching nearly 58 million in the future (2016)? Just as Community Psychology has increased its attention to diversity and inclusion in “theory, practice, and training” (Nelson: 2010, p. 39), Latinx families ought to understand that the benefits of raising their children, with the inclusion of Spanish as their second language, are in more advantage than the contrary. I truly know and I feel guilty of taking this matter in a light way. “They will learn when they grow up…”

I started believing that exclusively speaking English to my children would help me improve my English skills, as well as -perhaps to avoid possible discrimination towards them. I stopped believing in my assumptions when I realized how valuable and rewarding is to embrace the language that best represents my culture, and started focusing on rescuing bilingualism.

Helpful links:

Parents’ Guide to Teach Spanish at Home. SpeakingLatino

 

Reference

Geoffrey Nelson, Isaac Prilleltensky. (2010). Community Pasychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave MacMillian.

 

#UML #CommPsych