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The battle to learn Spanish

Cuban American filmmaker and our good friend Joe Cardona on an issue many of us have struggled with.

Via The Miami Herald:

The battle to learn Spanish things are more humbling than teaching a child. As you conjure up simple explanations for their complex inquiries — all while driving through McDonald’s — you quickly figure out that no matter how ingenious your responses may be, it is impossible to transfer every kernel of information that lies in your brain. If your child gathers a quarter of your hard-earned knowledge, consider yourself fortunate.

I became a parent when I was a few months shy of 40. I had plenty of time to contemplate what information and values I deemed important to pass onto a child — compassion, self-reliance, and to believe in their dreams were all atop my list, which probably resembled the lists in most Dr. Benjamin Spock “how to” parenting books.

The one unique piece of information (perhaps not in Miami so much but it’s certainly not in Benjamin Spock”s books) that I planned to teach my child was Spanish and a good portion of the Cuban history and culture that I know. Given the fact that my daughter would never meet my mother who passed away years before, I made it a point to pass along the bit of family history and cultural flavor that her grandmother would have likely ingrained in her at a very young age.

For years, I was the guy who chastised my friends whose kids’ first names were right out of Clint Eastwood westerns or junior beauty pageants in Georgia — somewhat hypocritical on my part, as I go by my Anglicized nickname. The sound of Shane Rodriguez or Tiffany Lynn Gonzales didn’t quite roll off the tongue for me. More than silly sounding, the names seemed like a feeble attempt to mask Latino identity.

Arrepentidos” (shamed ones) we used to call those hoity-toity Cubans in my West Hialeah neighborhood.

I was surely going to be the parent that would teach his children Spanish so that they could communicate with their grandparents. And so when my daughter was born I made it a point to place her in a daycare where Spanish was spoken all day. Her mother and I felt this would definitely give her a good Spanish base. When she was approaching kindergarten age we began to panic as we realized my daughter spoke little if any English.

Continue reading HERE.

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