Saturday, September 29, 2007

The One Semester of Spanish Love Song

I can't stop laughing at this .... and you know what? It really shows how much you can communicate with some very simple words!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Just say Hola!

September is always such a busy month, with many new beginnings ... especially this year, when this month began with taking my oldest child to college on the opposite coast and then starting a new university-level teaching position ....

And speaking of new beginnings, I have always said that just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the road to fluency in Spanish begins with a single word: Hola.

So I was delighted to read about an initiative to start a new holiday: "Hola Day", started by Myelita Melton, a Spanish teacher in North Carolina.

Celebrated on October 1st, right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th through October 15th), Hola Day is designed to foster a greater appreciation for the use of the Spanish language in the US. It honors both native speakers and non-native speakers who commit themselves to learning Spanish as a second language and using it in their daily lives.

Many communities and states across the United States are signing on, with a proclamation.

“Participating in Hola Day is simple,” says Melton. “We are asking everyone in America to say something in Spanish to someone else on Oct. 1. What you say can be as simple as ‘hola’ and ‘adiós’ or as complicated as you wish. Also, the person you speak to doesn’t have to speak Spanish; the whole point is that you do.”

I love the idea, even if I didn't think of it myself! Myelita definitely gets my Viva la Chispa award!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New op-ed published

Is advertising coffee in a foreign language really going to undermine our culture and our values? (If so, someone had better tell Starbucks to take the words “grande” and “macchiato” off its menu.)

Do really we need a law to tell us that English is the primary language of this country?

And are we really threatened by bilingual families, when most bilingual children spend the majority of their day speaking English?

Apparently, some people would answer "yes" to all of the above.

My latest op-ed, All Languages Spoken Here, was just published today, and is about precisely this issue ... and how the escalating discrimination and negativity against immigrants and their languages is hastening the loss of the precious linguistic and cultural resources of our immigrant communities -- precisely at the time when we need those resources most.

By the way, the "Bogota" mentioned in the article is Bogota, New Jersey (not Bogotá, Colombia).

Because of space limitations, I couldn't include more about the personal losses that go along with this loss of language, or about how strongly I feel that everyone should be studying foreign languages, learning about other cultures, and increasing both their local and their global multicultural awareness. Fortunately, there was another op-ed in the same paper yesterday about promoting multicultural education, so at least that point of view is out there at the same time. I'll write more about the personal losses - what I see as the loss of culture, identity and soul - at a later point.

An interesting coincidence is that I wrote this article, mentioning Bogota's mayor who took offense at the "café helado" sign, a few weeks ago. And then yesterday, I found this article in the New York Times, about how Steve Lonegan - Bogota mayor and immigration opponent - is the brother of Bryan Lonegan, immigration rights activist ... and they are the grandsons of an Italian immigrant. VERY interesting article.

I start a new Spanish teaching position on Friday, and I hope I will still have time to write about the intersection of language, culture, identity and soul ... issues which are all so important to me.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Spanish lessons in San Diego

I just got back from San Diego, and as always when I'm in the Southwest - and especially California - I feel like the entire experience is a Spanish lesson.

And I'm not even talking about how much Spanish you may hear on the streets or on the television or radio. Just the street and town names alone would be a great vocabulary practice.

In fact, I have often done a matching game in my classes, to help them see that many names that they may think of as just town names or place names (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Amarillo, etc. -and my personal favorite - Cape Canaveral, from cañaveral - sugar cane field) and even state names (Colorado, Nevada, Florida, etc.) actually have a real meaning in Spanish.

And not only is it a great vocabulary lesson; it also gives them an opportunity to see how the Southwest and Florida were originally colonized ... and by whom.