Non-white children often feel lost. Bilingual education can help
For the editor: Jean Guerrero’s op-ed about the treatment she received as a child speaking Spanish and English, and her courage to drop the anglicized pronunciation of her surname as an adult, struck me in the heart.
As a bilingual teacher for 52 years, I have observed children starting in kindergarten as Jose and Maria somehow morph into Joe and Mary in third grade. Did the teachers rename them? Are their friends (unlikely)? Or did they do it themselves, driven by the need to fit in?
I attended a high school graduation where 90% of the students were Hispanic and the names read as Joe, Mary, Rose, Albert, and Ellen, not Jose, Maria, Rosa, Alberto, or Elena. I wondered how their parents felt.
And Spanish is not the only language concerned. Our Asian students named Ting and Xiu and Hong become Peter and Sandy and Harry.
Damage is done to children who experience it. The remedy is to expand our elementary and secondary programs that promote multilingualism to recognize and honor the language and heritage of the home. In Los Angeles, we have programs in which instruction is provided in two languages. We proudly offer English along with Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Armenian, Arabic, French and Japanese.
Finally, salute the teachers who make this possible for our children.
Cheryl Ortega, Los Angeles
The writer is Director of Bilingual Education for United Teachers Los Angeles.
For the editor: I’d like to say to Guerrero, you should never be ashamed of your last name. Now we have our newest State Supreme Court Justice, Patricia Guerrero, and that puts that surname at the pinnacle of respect in California.
Your self-esteem should reach the highest level, because we are all proud of you. Congratulations on your column.
Now, Guerrero’s name is something Donald Trump will stifle.
Rogelio Quesada, San Diego
For the editor: When my father immigrated to the United States from Croatia after World War II, he added the letter “h” to the end of “Stipanovic” so he didn’t have to constantly explain the correct pronunciation. He became a citizen and loved the United States as his adopted country.
As a native of Angeleno, I can easily say all three syllables of “Guerrero”, but don’t expect me to roll the “rr”. I do not speak Spanish.
Mark Stipanovitch, Simi Valley