Educators Struggle to Teach Students Whose English is Infused with Spanish - Resources for your Spanish Classroom
This is the second of a three-part series exploring Latino dialects. In the first part, experts discuss how second generation Latinos in the U.S. are forming their own accents and dialects. Read it here.
Iris Huerta was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but was raised in East Los Angeles. When she was in high school, her family moved to a neighborhood where the Latina became a minority. Then an AP English student, Huerta was surprised when she had to convince her new school that she was fluent in English.
“They made me take a standardized test and a listening test,” she recalled. “They straight out told me if you hadn’t told us you spoke Spanish at home you wouldn’t have to take the test.”
Educators are increasingly concerned about Latino students like Huerta. Some don’t speak Spanish but use a dialect from Latino neighborhoods in areas such as Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Houston. Their speech rings with traces of Spanish accents, rhythm and grammar.
As the population of Latino English speakers increases, educators are struggling with ways to increase test scores and impart standard English. The methods behind meeting these goals span the map. Where some schools are experimenting with culturally sensitive curricula, others are not.
Still the search for better performance continues, in some cases at the state level. Texas was so concerned with these students that last year the state government commissioned a study to determine how to raise their competency in standard English.
The results indicated that they way we teach these English speakers to use standard English isn’t effective. One recommendation was to encourage continued teacher training in dialect and language diversity.
“There is this thinking that all we need to do is push standard English all the time,” said linguist Jeffrey Reaser, who co-authored the Texas study. “What we see is that approach does not work because it doesn’t take into account the cultural background and individual identity. It is a flawed ideal but it seems that is the common sense.”
Linguists have long held that dialects are not easily shed because they are so dependent upon individual identity. So, they counter, it makes more sense to embrace their way of speaking.
This principle is currently being used in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Academic English Mastery Program. This program has been helping African-American and Latino students who don’t use standard English score higher on exams.
Source: Fox New Latino
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