Monday, April 02, 2007

Embracing English, keeping Spanish

No other country has absorbed as many languages as ours. People are learning English at the same rate as they always have, but more are also keeping their native language. Being bilingual is the best choice. DP

Immigrants' kids appear to retain fluency

By Jane Meredith Adams, Special to the Tribune SAN FRANCISCO -- Verb by verb, 26 immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina and elsewhere are hacking their way through the rules, and the exceptions to the rules, of the English language on the third floor of a converted warehouse in the Mission District. In spelling past tense verbs, "stop" becomes "stopped," explained City College of San Francisco professor Barbara Shaw, but "fix" never becomes "fixxed."

"The verbs," said a sighing Gertrudis Gonzalez, 58, who is struggling to learn English 36 years after arriving from her native El Salvador.

"They understand what I am saying," said Argentine immigrant Cintia Godoy, 29, of her co-workers at a catering company, "but I know I say it wrong."

As they have for generations, Spanish-speaking immigrants have flooded the Mission District, where stores post abierto signs when they are open, the billboards advertise telenovelas on Spanish-language television stations and the tellers at the Bank of America branch converse en Espanol. The district represents the kind of Spanish-language enclave that has provoked controversy nationwide, notably in Hazleton, Pa., the site of the most recent uproar in the ongoing debate about immigrants, the English language and the 28 million people in the U.S. who, according to Census Bureau statistics, speak Spanish in their homes.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

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