Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Blogger ate my Homework

So you're getting a revised post. The nitty gritty - one of our two local newspapers (how we support two is a mystery) published an editorial piece on a bilingual book, Marcos Counts, being distributed FOR FREE as part of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. His feelings were that American children need to learn English first, establishing a good foundation in their native language before learning another one. This feeling, he admitted, is despite the opinions of experts that children soak up languages when exposed to them at an early age. Marcos ended up being sent to Goodwill, per the author of the piece. He's apparently since received a couple of letters that charge him as a racist.

For journalistic integrity (HA) I think it should be noted that I graduated as a Spanish major and studied in Mexico for a year.

We own not one but two copies of Marcos Counts, one purchased used by my mom a couple of years back, and this second received as Dolly's selection for Tucker last month. It's a real simple book; I don't know about it for 6 month olds, but Jackson likes it and kids grow into books and favor different books all the time, just like adults.

I don't think the author of the editorial piece is racist, although I have to wonder if he would feel differently if it was Francois Counts or Hans Counts. I think the Spanish language has a stigma in this country of being associated with illegal immigration.

Here are my problems with what he wrote, from both a mom-view and from that of someone who took the time to learn a foreign language:

1. This is my primary problem with his editorial: I don't understand denying a child any sort of educational opportunity. You've got a free book, a free way to give your child a small head-start on very basic foreign language education. You don't even have to use the book right away - you can wait until your child is a pre-schooler, perhaps.

2. Additionally, this book does not beat someone over the head with Spanish, and doesn't even have to be read in Spanish as the numerals are used in addition to the Spanish words for the numbers. You could totally read this book in English, reinforcing basic math skills as well as vocabulary. So donating to Goodwill for this reason just doesn't make sense to me.

3. I had the same feelings about Baby Signs that he has about young children learning Spanish. I thought the Baby Signs would actually slow down his language development when in fact all the speech therapists and every expert says any type of communication helps foster language development. Sign language is another language much like Spanish, so I would think that this would hold true here.

4. I think he is confusing "language education" with "forcing everyone to speak x language", as he mentions government documents in Spanish.

5. Considering the growth of the Hispanic population, he is really denying his child if he doesn't provide some sort of basic Spanish exposure.

6. Jackson is starting to learn basic Spanish - colors and numbers. I did wait until he knew them in English first, but he's smart enough to understand that it's just a different way to say the word. Red is rojo - they're both the same thing. Just like "small" and "little" - two English words - mean the same thing.

7. He counters in a follow-up article that those already here need to learn how to speak English. I couldn't agree more - they're hurting themselves by not learning to speak English. However, I arrived in Monterrey, Mexico in August 1998 with 4 years of classroom Spanish behind me (and a nice lengthy history of A's in those classes). I was overwhelmed - I could not understand a thing. Language education takes time, even for a student dedicating herself to studying a language. Imagine how it is to attempt to learn another language while working to support yourself or your family.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Sas-y Mom said...

Isn't Marcos counts about 11 pages long? That guy has WAY too much time on his hands. Also, the Dolly books are carefully selected by a panel of experts.

Gah.

Great post.

2/08/2007 12:06 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

I love Marcos Counts! Of course, I love all of our Books From Birth books, because like you said, they're freakin' FREE!!! Can't argue with that, whether in ingles or espanol! ;)

2/08/2007 9:46 PM  

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