Americans and Linguistics

By Antonio Caceres, Staff Writer

I have always felt some resentment towards my parents for not teaching me to be better at speaking Spanish. As a Latino with a large family, it can sometimes be difficult to understand what my aunts and uncles are saying. Worst of all, it can be embarrassing when you stutter while speaking. Now that I am older, I have progressed and can understand and speak the language proficiently. Yet, for most Americans, the chances of learning a second language are low because the United States places no emphasis on being bilingual.


When I entered high school, I had to choose between taking Spanish, a language I was already familiar with, or French, a brand new language. I decided upon the latter and am currently taking AP French. During my journey, I have seen countless students drop the class or stop progressing once they got their required credits to graduate. Many of them were less fortunate than me and had no experience with anything other than English.


Americans too often see themselves as the center of the universe. They are right to believe that much of the world’s affairs acquiesce to the will of the United States. However, this has led to a society that is uncultured and frankly uninterested in the cultures of other nations. Many politicians have pushed for nativist laws that enforce English-only resources and limit the influence of foreign societies. In 1986, California voters approved a proposition that made English the state’s official language, which is now mostly populated by Latinos and Asians (the United States has no official language).


As a society, we should care about the benefits of learning a second language. Not only does it expand the brain’s capabilities, but it also would create a more empathetic and cultured country. Europeans have been ahead of the curve, as is the case with most American problems, and teach their students their home language and English starting from childhood. Many of these students often learn a third or even fourth language in secondary school and university.


Education in the United States is left up to individual students, so it is very unlikely that this emphasis on learning a second language would transcend the nation. However, California should chart the course and begin offering a secondary language class starting from elementary school. Parents should have the choice to put their children in classes for Spanish or Chinese as those are the most used global languages as well as the native tongues of millions of Californians. There should also be more options like American Sign Language, French or Japanese depending on the school’s resources. These reforms would create a more intelligent generation of Americans, a generation better equipped to deal with the rise of globalization.