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Wednesday, September 06, 2006 

Teaching Spanish to Spanish Speakers

It seems we can't do anything right. The Loudoun public schools have decided that we are having a bad influence on the gringos because of our bad Spanish. An article in the WaPo talks about a school district that will offer Spanish to Spanish speakers.
This year, the foreign language department is adding two Spanish courses tailored to students who speak Spanish fluently. The courses are designed to help the growing number of Hispanic students who can speak and understand the language but have trouble reading and writing it, often because of inadequate schooling in their home countries.
They use the word Hispanic very loosely because they could be talking about me, not the immigrants.
Spanish speakers account for about 60 percent of the 3,000 students enrolled in the district's English as a Second Language program. Wyhs said that many of these students reach a plateau at a certain point in their English studies because they do not have a firm foundation in grammar in their first language.

"Studies show that what you can't do in your first language, you will never be able to do in your second language," Wyhs said.
What studies? That is making shit up. Here is the strange part.
Every year, many of those taking Spanish classes in Loudoun public schools are native speakers who are bored by the conversation exercises, struggle with the grammar tests, then leave class chatting easily in Spanish with other Hispanic students.
Gringos don't think we talk proper Spanish, we all need to know how to speaking in Castilian or other wise known here as Standard Spanish. What is Standard Spanish or Neutral Spanish - it is a dialect that is considered the correct educated standard for the Spanish language. Standard Spanish leaves out other dialects, such as certain tenses that are spoken at the different levels. Many gringos think us Hispanics talk in Standard Spanish because this is what they are taught in schools. So when they decide to teach Spanish they are required to have a mastery of Standard Spanish is necessary for teaching. Standard Spanish is also used in the law legal setting and the media.

I can tell you why they this students are struggling with their grammer based on my own personal experiences. I grew up in a border town; it is not uncommon for a middle class family to have maids who came from the "other side" (shhh....they didn't pay SS). In fact, my grandparents insisted I speak Spanish to them because it was a border town, our schools didn't teach us Spanish. When I was in the 9th, I took Spanish and my teacher was Hispanic. In fact, I made an A in class. I know I know I should. But hold on, I am getting to my point. When I was in the 10th grade, we have moved to CA and when I took Spanish from this old crusty gringa teacher, I had the hardest time in that class. Why would I have a hard time? What was the difference between the gringa and the Hispanic? The gringa taught us castellano. That was the only thing she knew. Anything else was non-existent. My Spanish and the Spanish I was taught in the 9th grade was inferior. Talk about knowing demoralizing a person. Everything I said was incorrect.

Fast forward a bit, in college I took Spanish again, this time with a young gringa. Did not matter, it was the same Spanish dialect and I got the same results, but this did not just demoralize me, but created a phobia that to this day, I have a major fear of talking and writing in Spanish.

Interestingly, when I took my last Spanish class in college, my professor was Hispanic. By this time I was so timid, whenever I would answer a question, it was never confident. Until one day, he asked why I was like this since he could tell I had a firm grasp of Spanish, that I would be considered fully bi-lingual - reading, writing, and speaking. I told him and he understood. At the end of class, I passed with flying colors.

But here are my question, are we being taught proper English just the same way teachers are required to teach Standard Spanish? How many gringo students are not bored taking English classes? How many gringos struggle in their grammar tests? How many gringos acctually master their own fucking language?

If this school is planning to offer a seperate class for the normal class, I am hoping they understand there are different Spanish dialects, if not, they will continue to have the same results.


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  • From Tejas, United States
  • Un Xicano who is tired of the current status quo.
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