In this globalized world, be more culturally diverse and the ability to speak more than one language has become in many cases a requirement to be successful, not only at a professional level, but a personal too.
The increase in international trade and the access to technologies have boosted the need of people capable of understanding different cultures and languages. But bilingualism is not a contemporary phenomena. There have always been countries like India where it is very common to find people that can speak two or even three languages. People in the borders between countries have become naturally bilingual because of the cultural diversity they have been exposed. Furthermore, in every chapter of our human history, there are references to the “interpreters”, skilled people that have been able to make different cultures reached a common understanding.
The rate of population who can spoke more than one language has increased throughout the world and in United States too. Unfortunately, many states do not have available community resources to facilitate a second language acquisition. New Jersey is one of those. With a population of 8,938,175 million, 30% of its population speak another language different than English at home. According to the 2012 state population census estimates, New Jersey is the sixth state of United States with the largest emigrant population, only after California, Florida, New York and Texas.
In this situation, families successfully integrated in the american society, struggle to preserve their cultural heritage to the point, that their second generation (born in United States) are more likely to be monolingual and only be able to speak the dominant language, which is English. It is more likely that families living in closed communities (like Chinatown or the Spanish quarter in some mayor US cities) preserved and transmit their language, since in those communities is possible to develop the daily routine in the language of that community. For this reason it is not surprising to find people that have lived all their lives in United Estates without the need to speak English.
Therefore, I start writing this blog with the hope of finding more people is my similar circumstances. Married to an American citizen, we speak to our child in English and in Spanish at home. However, my experience as a teacher of bilingual children has proved that this is not enough. Children like to communicate and socialize. Children like to play and meet new friends. But children are very practical too. If they see that their friends speak English, they will naturally refuse to speak their second language just because their friends don’t speak it. Furthermore, even if our children have friends that speak their same second language, it is not certain that they will be able to read and write in that minority language. We have to create an academic environment to be certain that our children will get those skills. This knowledge is very important, not only to prevail the family cultural heritage, but to get better opportunities as professionals in the future. This is our responsibility as parents. Don’t let our children down when we can give them better opportunities.