Wanted: Bilingual Teachers for High School Spanish


tom_kadalaOpinion: High School Spanish should be taught by Native Bilingual Hispanics

For the past few decades, Spanish and French have dominated the options available to high school students looking to fulfill a language requirement to graduate. Today, as the sign of the times, both languages are slowly being replaced with the ‘new kid on the block’, Chinese.


With over a billion people and still growing, China’s promise for economic dominance has parents and teachers concerned. Resources once allocated for Spanish instruction, for example, have been slashed, thus potentially compromising the quality of teachers and the overall commitment from foreign language department heads.



Developing a Chinese curriculum may please parents, but think what it will do to our next generation of students in the US. In a recent survey of a prestigious high-school in Westchester County, New York, 75% of the parents who had taken four years or more of Spanish or French in high school are not able to read or speak the language today.


In this same survey, students currently studying their fourth year of Spanish, for example, are not only struggling with present tense verbs but also experiencing difficulty pronouncing their vocabulary words with an acceptable Spanish accent. For those who are fluent in Spanish, listening to these students speak is truly discouraging.


The same survey data also generated some questions of concern. If the parents of a top Westchester school never learned their Spanish or French after four years of instruction, and their sons or daughters are currently struggling to cope with their Spanish or French (also after four years of instruction), what validates the claim that Chinese, a much more difficult language to master, will render any better results?



Perhaps some good may come from this Chinese language initiative. First schools will have to search for native speaking teachers who are fluent in both the language and the culture. Besides, it only makes sense to have a Chinese native teach Chinese. At some point, perhaps, these same department heads may recognize the value of hiring a native teacher from Latin America to teach Spanish. With so many bilingual Hispanics in the US, I would expect that they will not need to look far to attract exceptional talent!

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