Bilingual Is it possible that Honduras could become bilingual (Spanish/English of course) in the near future, even as they try to preserve indigenous languages that have been fading away?
There is definitely a love of the United States and a desire to speak English by many of the Hondurans, but that is not true for everyone. The United States is too much of a salad bowl of languages and a melting pot of cultures to ever be bilingual, although a great number of residents speak two or more languages.
First is the issue of matching effort to desire. The opportunities are there and many people want to know English, but many fewer are willing to put in the time and effort to really master another language.
Congratulations to every one of you that has put in the time and effort to be able to communicate in more than one language. A special congratulations to Peace Corps volunteers who, at whatever age, learned a completely new language in three months. Having grown up in a time when our parents had been encouraged to speak only English and we heard only English, I was never exposed to the Norwegian that was my grandparents’ first language.
Then in middle school we began our exposure to Spanish, and though we struggled with the verbs, we loved what we were doing and put in the time and effort to learn. Many from our graduating class have gone on to use Spanish in work, in service, and in travel.
I find it sad that we discourage children from communicating in their first language (if it is not English), and then in high school we require that they struggle to learn a second language.
Here in Honduras there is a push in education to include English. Private bilingual schools in the larger cities offer longer school days with English being the language of instruction in all but a couple of classes. These students become bilingual by the time they finish high school. I teach basic vocabulary and songs to kindergarten children in a class that is much too big for real learning to occur, but it is fun to hear “good morning, teacher” as I walk down the street.
For several years English has been required in 4th-5th-6th grades, but many of the teachers still are not prepared. Thus the Teaching English & Methodology (TEAM) program was developed through cooperation between the Peace Corps and the Honduran Ministry of Education, so that now many more teachers have a fundamental understanding of English.
This is the program I taught to teachers in Yorito (2009-2010) and am now teaching in Juticalpa. Neither the teachers nor the students can be called bilingual, but there is a base of knowledge and enthusiasm being shared with many.
Currently the Ministry of Education is pushing for bilingual instruction at all grade levels, but the teacher preparation is a very long way from making this a reality. At the National University of Agriculture where I am currently a professor, at least two terms of English are required for each and every student. Some view it as an additional burden of study, but many want to master English.
In addition, we have a language lab with twenty-four computers and many books (we can always use more!!) that can provide practice and enhance their learning. In their third year of study students can choose to take the two week trip for a one week visit to a university in the United States (all in the southeast thus far) and then to travel for a week with family or friends.
For their senior thesis students can remain in Honduras, but many choose to go to other countries with the United States being the most popular destination. “Where there is a will there is a way” can definitely be applied to learning English in Honduras. You never know who will suddenly speak a few words to you in English or where you will see English written, as evidenced by the photos I am including.
Many are half English and half Spanish, but surely they can’t be called bilingual. The use of the apostrophe is a typical example of trying but having the wrong order and not quite getting it. I’m not sure why the 1-2 liter bottle is labeled as 5 galones.
And I have yet to figure out what they must have been translating when the coffee package in a hotel room said fill the percolator with 42 cups of water (42 tazas). I know that they use smaller cups here, but not that small. For those who remember the music, dancing, and beer at the car wash late into the night, that is not the case here where they wash cars during the day and close at night.
The sign in front of our restaurant on the lake made me laugh at the double meaning of “power” as the many electrical lines blocked a good photo. Because of the amount of personal, governmental and business contacts (not to mention the drug trafficking) that occur between the United States and Honduras, it makes sense that people would want to be bilingual.