As I mentioned before, I am working at another school this week administering primary language testing in Spanish. When a child is enrolled in a school here in California, their parents have to fill out a Home Language Survey. If the parent notes that the child either speaks Spanish or was spoken to in Spanish, the child needs to be tested in Spanish to assess primary language proficiency. The school that I am working at has a handful of newcomers from El Salvador and Mexico this year. They also have quite a few kids who have been there for several years but were never tested in Spanish. We are playing catch up with these kids.
For the most part, this job is great. I can set my hours, the work is easy and the kids are super. There are two things about this job though that make me sad.
1) Loss of Spanish:
A great number of students that I have tested have lost their Spanish. They have lost a lot of common words from their vocabulary. One girl that we tested today said that she comes from a home where both parents are Spanish speakers. She said that her mom knows just a little bit of English. This girl could barely communicate in Spanish. She has learned to adapt to the "American" way of life and use only English. (not very good English either) She has been on my mind since we tested her earlier today. How does she communicate at home with her parents? What is it like for her every day at school? Another boy that I tested lost almost all of his Spanish. He began speaking in Spanish and only started speaking English in Kindergarten. (he is a 4th grader now) He had to retell a story to me in one portion of the test. In addition to his sentences being extremely fragmented he made up words. He made up lloranding for crying and dreamianding for dreaming and dormer for dormir. (he had to act this one out for me because he could see that I had no clue as to what he was saying!)
2) The second thing that makes me sad, and bothers me the most, is the fact that the Spanish speakers at this school have to, to some degree, lose their identity. There are no teachers at this school who are Spanish speakers. I walked into many different rooms asking for kids pronouncing their names the way they should be pronounced. In one room, I asked for Sarai. (Sa-rah-ee) The teacher looked at me like I was crazy and then said..." Oh, you mean Suh-Rye" Then all of the kids started to giggle and they continued with the Suh-Rye business. I then went to pick up a little boy named Lervi. (Ler-vee) A different teacher said "who? Lur-vy?" This happened on several more occasions.
I know that it is hard for non Spanish speakers to correctly pronounce some sounds in Spanish but that is no excuse for trying to make an effort to correctly pronounce a student's name. I had to wonder if the teachers I mentioned even thought to ask what the correct pronunciation is. It also took me by surpriuse that when I came in and correctly said the name, the teachers tried to correct me!
When I was with the students one on one, I asked them how they say their names. They told me the same thing that I said. I asked them how they are called at home. They again said the same thing that I said. When I asked them how they feel about how they are addressed at school, they got kind of quiet. I dropped the discussion at this point. They obviously don't want to make waves and are just trying to blend in.
On a more positive note...
I have only been testing now for 4 days and today as I walked around campus, I had many of my new "friends" run up to me and give me hugs or yell out "Hi Spanish Teacher!" That was WAY cool!
I also ran into a former student of mine that I ADORED. She moved away suddenly towards the end of school two years ago. It was so wonderful to see her and talk with her teacher. As I left the school today I heard a girl yell "Bye Ms. V.!" I turned around and there was my precious friend waving frantically from the bus at me. That definitely made my day!