My turn: Language still barrier

When I was growing up, I thought everyone in Lubbock spoke Spanish.

We went to the tienda down the street from my grandparents’ house; they spoke Spanish. At the park; Spanish. The music was Ramon Ayala. At Mass and cursillos (religious retreats) it was pure Spanish, with joyful shouts of “De Colores!”

But then we went to the post office and it was English as Grandma Chaya instructed me and my sisters what to tell clerks. That was sometimes challenging because Grandma Chaya instructed my parents, before I was born, to teach us English first, so we wouldn’t suffer from the kind of discrimination she did in Texas in the 1930s and 1940s, and so we could do well in school.

We did well. We all finished high school and beyond. I earned a graduate degree.

On the down side, however, I can’t carry on a full-fledged conversation with Grandma Chaya. She’s still not fluent in English and I’m not fluent in Spanish.

This is a language gap many Hispanics experience. Today, despite misguided English Only movements, I’m glad there are dual language programs, like the one my niece Kika will begin in the fall.

In kindergarten, Kika will be taught in both English and Spanish, with the goal of becoming fluent in both languages by second grade.