March 19, 2009

Being Bilingual and Bicultural

Although NBC’s series on the Hispanic-American experience called “We the People” aired nearly two weeks ago, I strongly believe that the clip below is worth a second look because it deals with some of the issues that we have all faced as producers and/or supporters of Latino literature.

Regardless of whether you are a publisher, author, translator, marketer, publicist, or reader of Latino literature, you have undoubtedly come across questions about being bilingual and/or bicultural. These questions acquire a particularly high degree of importance when they relate to children and their exposure to two languages from an early age. For instance, some believe that having access to two languages and cultures is beneficial to children because it expands their view and experience of the world, while others worry that acquiring two languages at once will lead to linguistic confusion and slow down learning. This particular question is of special interest to parents and educators, and it deserves an answer.

The clip below does a wonderful job of discussing studies related to some of the most common linguistic and cultural issues facing Latinos in the U.S., which is why I think that all of us interested in Latino literature should take a couple of minutes to watch and comment on it. In addition to language acquisition, the clip also deals with “acculturation,” “interculturation,” and other equally important topics related to being bilingual and bicultural. I would love to know what you think about some of the topics it touches on, about your own experiences, and what you have learned. Latino literature is by definition bilingual and/or bicultural, so this concerns us all. Please post your comments on this very important topic. I look forward to reading them.


  1. Interesting commentary....I was definitely raised in part of the country where the Spanish language is "denigrated." It's so cool for me to see this stuff discussed in a primetime show...maybe our stories are being more nuanced after all....Michelle

  2. Yeah San Antonio TX was mentioned! I grew up in one of the "pushed" famlies. I was made to stop speaking Spanish at the age of 4. It does make a difference.
    Jo Ann Hernandez

  3. I live in New York and I consider myself lucky to be surrounded with people who appreciate and encourage our son's bilingual/bicultural upbringing.


  4. The question that it may be too confusing for children to learn 2 languages is an American question. In most of the other countries in the world, children learn 2 or more languages and are not "confused"....

    The question embodies Americans' fear of the "Other" and of the loss of their identity if we are not all of us monolingual;i.e, English speakers. They don't realize the importance of understanding how other people think through learning their language.

    I started a bilingual blog (English and Spanish) and are faced daily with the difficulty not only of translating the words, but the mentality and the culture. In the blog I tell my personal story of how I discovered my only sister was stealing from me and the consequences of her crime for my mother, who lives in Mexico, and me, living in the USA. This experience has been challenging not only emotionally and financially, but linguistically.