Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Bilingual in Reno, Nevada

Growing up in two languages is a gift American parents can give to their kids as dual-language schools become increasingly popular. Although still a fraction of US education, the numbers of school teaching all subjects in two languages continues to grow. The Mariposa Bilingual Academy is Nevada's first dual-language school. Students will study in both English and Spanish from kindergarten through sixth grades. However, plans are underway to build bilingual middle and high schools.

Giuliani and Bush's Unclear Words

At the Republican National Convention last night Rudolph Giuliani praised Bush and said that by re-electing him we'll "see an end to global terrorism." "Unwavering Bush" seemed to have a different opinion. In an interview with NBC's Today Show he said we cannot "win" the war on terrorism (free subscription) but we "can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." Should Giuliani have checked with Bush before giving his speech?

Monday, August 30, 2004

Spanglish as Jazz?

Thanks to Ed Lanza of HispaniCon for pointing out this article about Spanglish, the hybrid Spanish-English spoken by many Latinos in the U.S. Although some people consider Spanglish an aberration and bad Spanish, professor Ilan Stavans, author of "Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language" (Rayo, 2003) has a different opinion. He differentiates it historically from the linguistic experiences of other immigrant groups. Stavans compares Spanglish to jazz, which originated among people who did not read music and so had to improvise, and eventually this art form spread throughout the world. Will Spanglish develop and become a fully-fledged language as Spanish evolved from Latin or die out once the influx of Spanish-speaking people wanes? Only time will tell.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Cost of Bilingual and Special Education

There is no doubt that students in in rich school districts score high on test scores and also receive high quality education. Money and quality education go hand in hand. In parts of Texas, poverty, lack of knowledge of English, and special education require significant increases if kids are to succeed. It's the same all over the country. Some people say money does not necessarily translate into learning, which in theory is true. But lack of adequate resources is almost a guarantee that limited success will be inevitable.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Importing Teachers from Mexico

Shortages of bilingual teachers are forcing some Texas schools to recruit in Mexico.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Curing Monolingualism in Iowa?

A dual-language school in Iowa generated strong negative reactions from some local residents who believe that in America you speak English and only English. Many other enlightened parents realize bilingualism is a gift for their children in an ever-shrinking world.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Teacher Shortage in Foreign Languages

Need a job teaching foreign languages or ESL?

No English, No License

Efrain Soto, an immigrant from Venezuela, still cannot drive a car. His English is very weak and the examiner for the road test failed him, recommending that he learn English. Hamden, CT does not have bilingual examiners. Officials said it would be desirable, but resources are limited. Many states offer the written part of the license test in a number of foreign languages and some also give the road test in a variety of languages. Connecticut does not. Do you need to know English in order to drive? Do tourists visiting the US know English or can they drive legally with an international driver’s license?

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

French Speakers Are Happy

Although the United Nations has six official languages, it has only two "working languages" in which documents are translated—French and English. Yet, in many practical terms English is the working language of the UN. The French often complain bitterly about English dominating the UN at the expense of French. Not so at the current Olympics in Greece. The French language has been given its recognition in the Olympics and Francophone speakers are happy. M. Pierre Andre Wiltzer, French foreign minister with portfolio for Francophonie, presented a trophy to Organizing committee of ATHENS 2004.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Future Mussolinis?

Although most Italians would probably not be proud of carrying the burden the name Mussolini entails, Alessandra, the Duce's grand-daughter (free subscription) wants to make sure it survives. She wants to change the Italian law and make it easy for mothers as it is for fathers to give their surnames to their children. Currently , Italian laws says that mothers may pass on their last name to their offspring when the father's last name is not known. Alessandra had to fight for three years to be able to have her three children use both her husband's and her last names.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Enforcing Bilingualism

Dr. Grenville Goodwin's signs in his Ottawa optometry office have been in English for 53 years. Now he must change them and add French, according to the Canadian federal government. Goodwin is mad and sees no reason why he should not continue to provide his services in English only. But there is a catch. He is renting office space from the the federal government and the rules are that both French and English signs must be visible. The rules apply also for French business owners who must also provide signs in English.

More Heroic Words

After 35 years of silence, William Rood, an editor of the Chicago Tribune, wrote a first-person account of his experience in Viet-Nam. Rood, who served with John Kerry, confirms the heroic actions of the Democratic presidential nominee and the platoon he commanded. Rood's experience is direct. He was there. He saw it. The individuals who are running ads questioning Kerry's service did not serve with Kerry and are little more than political hacks. Bush has no record to run on and has to hope that enough doubts are raised about Kerry to make Americans believe what is not true. The bottom line is, if you're getting on a speed boat, do you want Bush and his words to accompany you, or someone who has shown enough character to spill his blood for his country?

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Heroic Words?

In the 2000 primary Republican campaign, George W. Bush attacked John McCain's Viet-Nam's heroic record. At one of the debates, McCain reacted and told Bush he should be ashamed (video) for those actions. McCain went on to say that five US Senators, all Vet-Nam war veterans and heroes, sent George Bush a letter saying he should apologize. Who organized the five Senator's action? John Kerry. Similar Republican attacks were aimed at Max Cleland, a hero, who lost three limbs in Viet-Nam. Now a group called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" is attacking John Kerry's record in Viet-Nam. Kerry spilled his blood for his country while George W. Bush was living the good life in the US. McCain recently stated that Bush should denounce the Swift Boat Veterans' ad. McCain is supporting Bush for reelection. However, if Bush doesn't disassociate himself from the ad, McCain should get off George Bush's boat and join Kerry, a war hero like himself.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Bush and Kerry: Looking for votes "en México"

Latino Pundit has a post about George P. Bush, the president's nephew and his bride, looking for "votos" in Mexico. Apparently, there are a million U.S. citizens living in Mexico. The Bushes have strong links to our southern neighbor since Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida, married Columba Garnica Gallo, a native of Guanajuato. John Kerry's campaign is also active in Mexico. The Democratic candidate's people have held a voter-registration and ballot-request drive in Guadalajara.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Curing Monolingualism in Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy made it clear to his ministers that retaining their jobs would depend on their progress in becoming bilingual. With a reshuffling of ministries approaching, it appears many ministers fail to make the grade in spite of serious efforts to learn a second language. What about Hungarians language fluency in general? Well, it's no better than their ministers. A survey by the ministry found that only 19% of the population can communicate in a foreign language. Hungary trails behind all the other new European union member states. Slovenia, on the other hand, leads the multilingualism field, with over 70% speaking one of the major Western European languages (English, French, German, Italian or Spanish), and 91% speaking at least one foreign language. Within the European Union as a whole, 53% of the population can communicate in at least one foreign language. The Scandinavians lead the pack when it comes to language knowledge while the British continue to suffer from monolingualism.

More Spanish, Less French and German

British students show decreasing interest in foreign languages. This year's A-level results among British teenagers reflect a sharp fall in numbers taking exams in French and German. German was down by 8.1 per cent and French was down by 2.5 per cent as compared to last year. Numbers in Spanish are up but they don’t make up for losses in French and German.

Mommy and me en español

An interesting program in which young kids learn Spanish with their parents was the focus of an article in my hometown newspaper. San Luis Obispo also has a dual-language school in which elementary school students learn all subjects in two languages.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Selling in English or Español?

My fellow blogger HispaniCon pointed out an article which focuses on the diversity of the Latinos in the US. Broadly speaking, there are two groups, separated by language—English and Spanish. For Gregory Rodriguez, of the New America Foundation, the proportion of foreign-born among the Hispanic population reached its peak during the 1990s. Latinos are becoming more an ethnic rather than an immigrant communty. What does this mean for advertisers trying to reach the diverse Latino buyers? Do you advertise in English or Spanish? The interesting thing is that once Latinos lose their language, they also lose much of their culture and become Americans and move away from the "Hispanic market."

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Dreaming in Two Languages?

What language do bilingual people dream in? Myths and truths about the lives of bilingual individuals.

Exit Bilingual Education?

HispaniCon has a post about US English celebrating the "slow death" of bilingual education. Yet, with the exception of California, Arizona, and Massachusetts, which virtually eliminated bilingual education, most states are continuing it. It certainly is alive and well in president Bush's home state of Texas.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Linguistic Diversity

A 33-square kilometer area in Southern California is one of the most linguistically diverse in the country.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Does the GOP Parle Français?

With the latest polls showing John Kerry gaining on George Bush in battleground states, Dick "Halliburton" Cheney is attacking the Democratic presidential nominee. The assaults emerge in a number of ways but they also have to do with Kerry's connections to French. A GOP Senator said Kerry "looked and acted French." French is OK, though, if the politician is Republican. Porter Goss, the recently-nominated CIA director, was like Bush and Kerry educated at Yale, and is fluent in French and Spanish. How do you spell hypocrisy in French?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

One Language for Europe?

Multilingualism is typical of the European Union. Yet, as the number of member countries increases, more and more pressure will push for a common language. English is the likely candidate, particularly in view of the fact that it's the most widely studied foreign language. This is true in Europe as well as the rest of the world. Some people already view English as a basic subject alongside of the national language (s), math, and science. Will the European Union solve its linguistic "problems" and choose English as the only language? I think a more likely scenario is that several major languages will be chosen as official ones, which is what what has happened in the UN.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Looking for Undecided Voters en español?

More than 7 million Latinos are expected to vote in this year's presidential election. Inevitably, both Kerry and Bush are trying to appeal to these voters, particularly in battleground states such as Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Wisconsin. Although 80% of Latino registered voters are fluent in English, español is going to be used to enter the hearts of Latino voters. Bush in many ways started it in the previous presidential election. He acknowledged that he does not speak Spanish very well, but he tried, and inevitably gained from his limited use of the language. Of course, he did slip a few times. In one case, he asked a Latino audience for their "botas" (boots) instead of their "votos" (votes). But no matter, Latinos appreciate a candidate's use of Spanish. According to a Washington Post/Univison/TRPI survey 65% of Latinos believe that a candidate's ability to address them in español is important or very important. So expect to hear more Spanish from both Kerry's camp—his wife speaks Spanish fluently— and from Bush—his brother Jeb, governor of Florida, also speaks it very well.

The Most Difficult Word to Translate

"Traduttore, traditore" (translator, traitor) is a well-known phrase in the translation world. By changing words from one language into another, the new meaning is almost always a little different and not a true and complete reflection of the original. One of the most difficult words to translate is the Bantu word "ilunga" but English also has many words that test translators' (written) and interpreters' (oral) skills.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Two Languages Better Than One

Although Massachusetts virtually eliminated its bilingual education program, bilingualism in education still shows signs of life. Students in a voluntary dual-language school in the Framingham School District outperformed those who studied in traditional bilingual education programs. Dual-language schools focus on teaching both languages, while traditional bilingual education tries to use the students' native language as a springboard for eventual English-only instruction.

Saturday, August 07, 2004


Linguists believe that 60% of the estimated 5,000-6,000 languages may disappear because of the dominance of a very small group of major languages.

Bilingual Vs. immersion: The Debate Goes On

Arizona followed California's lead and dropped its bilingual education program several years ago. Now some data from standardized tests suggests immersion works better than bilingual education. Does it really?

Interpreters Needed

North dakota needs interpreters to help with refugee population.

Friday, August 06, 2004

When Soccer Speaks Politics

This year's Asian Cup final will see China facing Japan and it's likely to replay political rivalries going back to World War II. Soccer, unfortunately, is much more than just a game.

McCain: Yes to Bush, BUT....

Although John McCain is supporting George W. Bush for re-election, the Arizona Senator knows the meaning of words. He denounced a TV ad by a group of veterans backing President Bush which accuses John Kerry of lying about his injuries in Viet Nam. McCain knows how it must hurt to have your military service questioned. He was the subject of similar attacks by Bush during the 2000 Republican primary. McCain asked the White House to condemn the ads because they are "dishonest and dishonorable." Will Bush do it?

Tongue-Tied Wall Street Journal

Fellow blogger Ed Lanza, who reads the Wall Street Journal, pointed out this article by Michael Gonzalez, the newspaper's editorial page editor. Gonzalez belittles Teresa Heinz Kerry's multilingualism by saying that the five languages she speaks is "no great achievement." Why? Well, Gonzalez believes that they are all Romance languages (English is also a Romance language?) and they are really one and the same. Even if Gonzalez is right about Romance languages, isn't Teresa at least bilingual since she also knows English? Gonzalez bunches up French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese and says that if you know one of them you essentially know the others. I wonder why I spent years of my life trying to learn French, Spanish, and Italian (my native language was Calabrese, a dialect spoken in Southern Italy). Gonzalez who is apparently much sharper than me learned them the easy way. Since he grew up speaking Spanish, the other Romance languages (All of them, Romanian, Catalan, Sardinian, Provenzal, Calabrese, etc?) "fell into place.... as easily as they must have for Mrs. Heinz Kerry." Teresa must, like me, be a slow learner, since she also collected diplomas in languages from a university in South Africa and also studied interpreting in Switzerland.
To show that Romance languages are one and the same, Gonzalez translates the following sentence
"I sing the national anthem."
Spanish: Yo canto el himno nacional.
Portugese: Eu canto o hino nacional.
Italian: Io canto l'inno nazionale.
French: Je chante l'hymne national.

I won't comment on the Portuguese since I have never studied it, but Gonzalez mistranslates the Spanish and Italian. By using the subject pronoun (Yo, and io, the meaning comes out with emphasis on the speaker, i.e., the real meaning of his translation is I sing the national anthem (suggests "you" or other people don't). It's a basic point I teach my students in the first few weeks of classes. Gonzalez' article is not really about trying to define what a language is. His interest is in bringing down Teresa and mostly her husband. And that's where he moves in the second part of his piece. He goes on to say that American superpower has made it easy to get away with monolingualism. That's an incredible statement given the war on terrorism requires much more linguistic knowledge. Since much was made about Teresa's five languages, Gonzalez goes on, "Democrats tried to create of a multilingual, worldly wise party, in contrast to the Republicans, a know-nothing rabble led by a man intellectually incurious." It was not very difficult to do, given Gorge W. Bush's actions after 9/11, his inability to get virtually anyone to help him in "his war," and the fact that he is linguistically challenged.
Gonzalez ends his piece by saying that ideas count more than the language in which they are conveyed. He's right. But if you don't know the definition of "language," your argument falls totally apart.

Thursday, August 05, 2004


Buying a house is the best way to assimilate. Right?
More immigrants could, in fact, assimilate if real estate agents reached out to customers in español.

When $$Dinero$$ Talks

Univision, the well-known Spanish-language network, announced that its profits more than doubled in the second quarter.

Telemundo, Univision's competitor, was losing the ratings game but is improving. In its efforts to catch up, Telemundo is trying to "Mexicanize" the Spanish used in its programs.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Bilingual Humor

Teresa Heinz Kerry has a strong personality, but she also has a sense of humor.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Tongue-Tied Executives

The UK and Ireland have the lowest percentage of executives who speak foreign languages in Europe. Greece and Sweden have the highest proportion of businesses with executives able to converse in more than one language.

Immigrant Kids Retain Language Skills

Although Massachusetts dropped its bilingual education program, immigrants still push their kids to remain bilingual.

Why Study Languages?

There are many reasons to study languages, including love, business, or travel, and age does not matter.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

In Praise of Bilingual Education

Although bilingual education has been virtually abolished in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts, dual language schools are thriving and provide students with opportunities to develop language fluency in two languages.

Language Barbarians?

Americans are famous for being monolinguals. Apparently, this also affects others whose native language is English. Britons don't like to learn languages either. Mike Tomlinson, former chef inspector of Englih schools, described Britons as "barbarians" when it came to learning foreign languages. Research published this week found that fewer than one in 10 British workers could speak a foreign language, even at a basic level.