The U.S.-Mexican War and
the Peoples of the Year 2000
The Rights of All First Languages
Inputs from Politics
Inputs from History
The Future of New/Old Nations
|Language is a question of family values -- among other
things, of Navajo values, of Haitian values, of Romany values.
Spanish and English are not all there is to it. Even just between Mexico
and the United States, a whole range of languages have been at issue, then
In policy, governments do not face a simple choice between teaching "the"
national language and pursuing some neatly-defined "bilingualism."
For one thing, bilingualism can mean several different things:
the speech that teachers in Mexico present as "good Spanish" (whatever
teachers in Spain might think)
the speech that teachers in the U.S. present as "good English" (whatever
teachers in England might think)
the "original" languages spoken by indigenous people, in many parts of
Africa and the Americas.
the evolved or hybrid languages spoken by various peoples
"Educated" bilingualism is not controversial. Working-class bilingualism
is. It raises questions about school budgets, and about whether employers
can understand conversations among employees. It is the question
of whether poor parents have the same rights as rich, to transmit their
culture to their children.
encouraging the development of a professional and commercial class who
can handle more than one language, and who can therefore mediate between
allowing the public and work-place use of Spanish by people who have migrated
into the United States, or of English by those who have migrated into Mexico
using a "bilingual" program for easing into the school system those children
who enter it speaking an immigrant language
using a local indigenous language alongside the "national" language, in
a public school, or in a religious school for that matter
giving some kind of recognition to the variations on English or Spanish
spoken by specific ethnic groups.
More open, creative options are needed, if governments are to deal
sanely with the so-called "bilingual education" problem. There are
also some cautions that may affect any options:
The old tendency for children to reject parental languages means that the
real endangered species here is diversity, not "English."
Over the centuries, the most serious violation of language rights has been
the repression of indigenous languages, not the imposition of one European
language on another European language.
The ideal of language diversity requires both the full richness of traditional
language, including its academic forms, and the freedom of language to
evolve in "outlaw" directions.
On this last point, one of the unnoticed difficulties with official bilingual
education programs is that they would reinforce the kinds of lower-middle-class
"school" language -- English or Spanish -- that protect neither real tradition
nor real creativity.
Language lives best when it is a property, not of nation-states, but
of historical communities. The most important resource now, for preserving
purity and diversity -- that great paradoxical value -- is precisely
the kind of transnational community, or nonlocal nationality, that is emerging
on the world scene. The trusteeship that it exercises may be legal
when it comes to economic property, but conceptual when it comes to language
Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Guillermo Gómez-Peña, The New World Border: Prophecies,
Poems & Loqueras for the End of the Century (1996)
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