Bilingual Skills Expand Ability to Communicate

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 12, 1999 | Go to article overview

Bilingual Skills Expand Ability to Communicate


Byline: Jerry Campagna

What do we mean when we use the term "bilingual"? Many consider it synonymous with bilingual programs in our school systems. Others politically associate it with Latino immigrants and language acquisition issues. To me, it means much more.

One of my daughters is studying French in Belgium as an exchange student. My other daughter is enrolled at the University of Alaska studying to become a sign-language interpreter. My wife is a business coach and has studied body language as a method to uncover nonverbal messages. I speak both English and Spanish and can interpret most gang graffiti and hand signs from my years as a gang interventionist. Our family, and yours, communicates in a rainbow of languages. In other words, most of us are bilingual.

I am not trying to make light of the controversy surrounding bilingualism here in the United States. However, I feel that many times it is used as a political tool instead of a means to better communicate with each other, a process that requires us to move beyond nouns and vowels.

In the United States, there is no hotter topic in the Latino community than bilingualism in our schools. Many swear by its necessity. Others feel it is a system in dire need of reform, and still others want to abolish it altogether. Yet, if one were to review the classes taken by Anglo students in high schools, many are taking Spanish as a second language. Most universities require foreign language course for admission. Should this large body of students not also be included in the subject of bilingualism?

There are those who feel the United States should be an "English Only" country in which no other language is utilized except the one the pilgrims brought with them. They obviously are not referring to the language of America's discoverer, for he was Italian, sailing a Spanish fleet, with Portuguese sailors.

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