Magazine article American Libraries

English Only Is English Lonely

Magazine article American Libraries

English Only Is English Lonely

Article excerpt

What would make children who grew up in a home where English was not the first language turn right around and become English majors in college? American Libraries Senior Editor Beverly Goldberg and I used to discuss that question when we learned that we both had similar experiences as children. We concluded that the so-called broken English--the malapropisms, the accents, the mangled grammar--we heard every day of our child-hoods was what had, in fact, fixed our attention on succeeding, if at nothing else, at least in the use of the language of the United States.

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We understood in those days that English was the key to success and acceptance. Kids like us embraced it to the exclusion of any language or custom that made us look as if we were just off the boat. That meant Polish had to go, and French became its suitably la-di-da replacement as a foreign-language requirement.

The American Library Association's position on bilingual library collections is clear. "Guidelines for Library Services to Hispanics," adopted in 1988, notes that "persons in the Hispanic communities in the United States do not all speak and read only Spanish; they do not all speak and read only English, nor are they all bilingual. The members of these communities have diverse needs and are entitled to access to materials diverse enough to meet those needs."

However, while standard criteria to aid in the selection of library materials for Spanish-speaking and other immigrant populations have long been available, the old English-only debate goes on, as evidenced by the two juxtaposed positions presented in this month's cover story (p. …

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