If Your Kids Don’t Speak Spanish, Are They Really Hispanic?

This one cuts close to the bone.  You see, I am proud of my Latino heritage yet none of my three sons speak Spanish.  To be fair, my youngest son is only two years old so the jury is still out but between us, it doesn’t look good (my wife disagrees).  My two teenage sons generally understand Spanish but neither posses enough command of Spanish to be considered bilingual nor do they express any interest to learn.  I’ll frame my thoughts regarding this complicated and sensitive topic around three factors: (1) the disappointment, (2) the New Yorican, and (3) the language link.

The Disappointment

I’m disappointed.  I’m disappointed in myself when my bilingual friends approach my sons in Spanish and they either can’t or are too embarrassed in their remedial Spanish to respond.  I make my living as a Hispanic Marketing Communications Professional which is largely dependent on my bilingual skill set.  Consequently, I cringe at the thought that I have limited my children’s career possibilities by not gifting to them the ability to command Spanish.  I’m mostly disappointed in myself when my children’s ability to communicate and bond with our family is effectively crippled because abuelita (grandma) doesn’t speak English and the grandchildren don’t speak Spanish.  My mom often proudly proclaims, “I made you bilingual and to that you owe your present day success.”  Respectfully, my mom’s not quite right.  She spoke to me in the only language she commanded (Spanish).  I was raised in a country whose primary language is English.  My being bilingual is the natural consequence of being born bicultural and balancing two languages since day one…but I digress.   Regarding language, how have you managed your U.S. born Hispanic children?  How did your parents manage you regarding language and identity?

The New Yorican

I grew up in Northern New Jersey (just outside NYC), happily coexisting with a large community of post-first generation Puerto-Rican brothers and sisters casually referred to as “New Yoricans”.  The New Yorican community didn’t necessarily command Spanish like their parents and grandparents and many never stepped foot in Puerto Rico.  However, what I recall most about this community of Latinos in the northeast was the enormous sense of publicly displayed pride New Yoricans expressed regarding their Puerto Rican heritage.  Any charges of not being Hispanic based on the perceived requirement of command of the Spanish language or tacit knowledge of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico did not surface.  For me, New Yoricans are as U.S. Hispanic as they come, regardless of how well they may or may not command the Spanish language.  So if New Yoricans can be proud of their Hispanic heritage with or without Spanish, why do I place so much emphasis on language to define my own children’s degree of Hispanic authenticity?  Am I alone in regarding these conflicting feelings of language and identify?

The Language Link

Language is social currency.  In my experience, to the degree you can command the language of a given community is the degree by which that community accepts you.  By command, I mean not only the general language, but rather all the nuances, voice inflections, rate of speech, slang and other idiosyncrasies that denote your level of cultural authenticity.  As a veteran Spanish language teacher once told me, language is like a living cell that takes on the form of the environment in which it is set.  This explanation is true regardless of language spoken.  For example, when English is spoken in England, it differs from English in North America – English in South Carolina is not often confused with English in New York, so on and so forth.  When it comes to Hispanics in North America, where Latinos from as many as 20 different Hispanic countries-of-origin reside, Spanish is dynamic and constantly in flux.  As a consequence, even if your children speak Spanish in the United States, there exists the additional criteria to command a broader range of Spanish dialects in order to receive social acceptance among a diverse community of Hispanics.  So is there a sliding degree of acceptance that our bicultural kids will receive, from rejected if no Spanish is spoken on one end of the spectrum to fully accepted on the other if your child fully commands Spanish in multiple dialects?

In the end, I’m emotionally conflicted on this topic.  Please help me find more reasonable ground by sharing your thoughts, experiences and position on this matter.  By the way, the three factors I discuss are not the only dimensions regarding this topic so please feel free to add other consideration that I have not covered.

We look forward to your contribution.


Alberto Padron

Born Bicultural USA



  1. I like the article! This is definitely an issue for both Latino and Non-Latinos in the US. So much emphasis has been put onto the value proposition of being bi-lingual, that there is almost a frowning that occurs upon those whom are “supposed to be” bi-lingual and are NOT.

    Yet, being a 2nd Gen. Puertorican who grew up in NY (I don’t like the term Nuyorican – denotes separatism based on a zip code), I did not learn spanish until college, and yet according to my parents (that I could easily be upset at for not teaching me spanish at home), the story goes like this: They migrated to NY from Puerto Rico in a time when Diversity, nor immigration was easily tolerated. So my parents, at the time, were convinced that it was in OUR (my siblings and myself) best interest to concentrate on English, and not spanish. Thus, “easing the pain” of assimilation into our americanized community. Thus of course, many things have changed, yet the question still remains: Is there justice, or due-diligence in categorizing Culture solely base on one’s ability to speak the language, or do we need to re-learn the criteria that defines Culture: Psychology, Sociology & Epidemiology, and how each one has its own implications of one’s life experience and thus a defendable yet personable definition of culture BASED on that experience?

    We continue to live in a nation, a region, a world that lacks understanding of the value of a myriad of experiences and a multitude of Culture that a nation can benefit from.

    The debate goes on….

    1. Nelson,

      Thank you soo much for chiming in.

      Not surprisingly, your comments are insightful and thought provoking. I’m particularly drawn to your comments regarding the “frowning that occurs upon those whom are ‘supposed to be’ bi-lingual and are NOT.” The operative phrase being “supposed to be”. Who dictates who we’re supposed to be? Societal pressures and the related labels are a real part of our existence but I’m not convinced that makes it right. What do you prescribe for managing that “frowning” moment?

      Again, thank you for your contribution…looking fwd to your future comments.


      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  2. We did not speak Spanish in the home when growing up, although we were fortunate enough in the summers to be immersed in the culture and language where my father is from – Dominican Republic. I was shy (still am to some degree) and didn’t like to speak the language (preferred to be quiet more I guess), so I regret that. I do remember taking Spanish in highschool and being able to understand it well enough that I answered the teachers in English when they saw my last name (Quezada) and spoke Spanish immediately to me on Day 1 each year. I still find that I can understand it mostly when I hear it, but I can’t translate back in Spanish fast enough to be able to speak so I find myself reverting back to English.

    My mom has told me that my father received his medical degree in his home country, and when immigrating to the US had to take courses over in English to prove he could communicate and manage his chosen profession in this country. I believe that was a driver in speaking mostly English at home. I remember him correcting our grammar, even when we were talking informally. Looking back, I wonder if that was his way of meeting the “status quo” of this country to maintain his gift of medicine.

    My goal is to teach my children spanish so they can communicate with all sides of their family, and should we visit my father’s house, speak with the family members that converse in Spanish over English naturally. I don’t think language drives your heritage, but you miss alot if you don’t embrace as much as you can. This is a bone of contention in my house, as my spouse appears to have a problem with the kids learning a second language, but I believe it is important to be able to adjust to an ever changing world.

    1. Dear Maria (my sister in-law),

      That was a very candid account of your perspective on this sensitive matter and I appreciate your courage in posting your thoughts on this forum.

      The story of the Latino immigrant who chooses to speak English in the home for various reasons is repeated time and again in the United States. I find it interesting and encouraging that you find value in teaching your children Spanish despite growing up in an English speaking household. I suspect the challenge to incorporate Spanish in your home while residing in the English-dominant market of Chesapeake, Virginia only increases the level of difficulty in pulling this off. Regardless of the result, I applaud your attempt to try.

      Again, thank you for chiming in. I hope you bookmark http://www.BornBiculturalUSA.com, visit and comment often.

      Best regards to you and the entire Jensen/Quezada family.


      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  3. Hi Alberto,

    This topic is close to our hearts right now. We have three small children (6, 3 and 1) and were committed from the start to teaching them Spanish. Will and I have certainly benefitted professionally from being bilingual in Miami, and I have witnessed friends who do not speak Spanish (some of them kids of Cuban-born parents) lose out on many business and employment opportunities — so we were not going to do that to our kids!

    When our oldest was born, we made the effort and spoke to him only in Spanish. It was definitely an effort because Will and I do not speak Spanish to each other at home. But it worked, and we were proud of ourselves. Until it became a problem — at the park, or with his cousins, he couldn’t talk to any other kids! So when he was 4 and starting summer camp, we started speaking to him in English. I don’t think it took more than a month or two, since he had been hearing it all along, and he made the switch. He never turned back.

    Today he still understands Spanish, but is not nearly as fluent as he was just two years ago. His younger sister, who was taught the same way, only wants to speak English so she can talk with her big brother, and so on.

    I am watching them slip down this slope and it makes me uncomfortable. Like your parents, mine spoke to me in Spanish because that is what they spoke to each other — it turned out to be beneficial, yes, but it was not exactly a conscious effort on their part.

    Still, I would like to do a little more to keep them bilingual. To this end, last month I ordered the Rosetta Stone program in Spanish. My son likes it because it is like a computer game to him, and it comes with a cool headset and microphone (to test pronunciation), which he likes. I also bought some beginning reader books at a Spanish bookstore, and he is doing daily Spanish reading practice along with his phonics, math, etc.

    Ironically, the last hurdle here is ME. I admit I was relieved when they started speaking English because I could express myself more easily, more precisely. But once again, as a mom, I feel called upon to sacrifice my comfort on the easy road for the benefit of the difficult one — the reality is that they will not be as fluent as I want them to be unless at least one of us speaks Spanish to them all the time. So, I’m off to brew another ‘colada’, and muster the energy for this next challenge.

    1. Cristina,

      You and Will have always been and continue to be an inspiration to me. There are many reasons I’m a fan of the Freyre Family. Nevertheless, I’ll remain on theme and focus exclusively on the link between our children, their culturally identity and our parent’s native language of Spanish. The fact that you and Will pulled off speaking Spanish only to your oldest son was proof positive for me that with sacrifice, gifting to our children bilingual capabilities was possible. Now you share that your efforts are under threat and you feel that you are “watching them slip down this slope” of single language children, English. I won’t pretend to have the remedy; after all, you guys are the model (no pressure). Regardless of how things turn out in the long term, a fan of the Freyre’s I will remain because I’ll always admire the sacrifices you and Will have made for your Born Bicultural children. Suerte amiga! (Good luck friend!)

      I hope you bookmark http://www.BornBiculturalUSA.com, visit often and comment at will.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  4. Regarding language, how have you managed your U.S. born Hispanic children? My husband is the Hispanic in this picture, and 100% Spanish was spoken in his home and like you, he also learned to speak English because of society, school & business. With the our two children, I speak English even South Carolinean English depending on the time of the year. I understand Spanish and learned it via school, college, life and on the job experience. I understand it well enough in the written and spoken forms, as much as I can understand it when I hear it, but I can’t translate back in Spanish fast enough to be able to speak so I find myself answering in English. If I am able to respond at a decent pace, it would be with one or two Words & not complete sentence.
    My children is in the same boat as your children, but I am not embarrased about their lack of ability to speak Spanish.
    I believe this is the answer for my children. My youngest feels he is not confident in spanish to respond, so he respectfully keeps quiet, but it looks like he is being rude by not answering, it is when, he will say in English “I don’t speak Spanish” and here comes the fast rush of Spanish Why not… blah, blah, blah. We sit through the conversation, and after a few minutes of hearing this we make our exit home. Hence he will only speak Spanish to abuela and when no else is around. The communication between grandmother and grandson is well enough. If there is a problem, then my husband will translate for clarity purposes.
    The truth is the primary language in our home is English, and when we visit my mother in law & the few select other Hispanic relatives) it is Spanish. (Spanglish depending on who is doing talking).
    Great topic & interested in reading more responses.

    1. Loretta,

      I thank you soo much for being a repeat commentator on Born Bicultural USA.

      Your cultural dynamics are interesting because your husband is the Spanish speaker and you’re not. I can appreciate your children’s predicament regarding the unwanted lectures and only feeling comfortable with their Spanish is very limited settings. My question for your children is do they view themselves as either Hispanic or Hispanic-American despite their lack of command in Spanish fluency? I’m trying to determine how strong the link is between language and cultural identity. I await your response with great anticipation.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  5. I’m a 25 year old, 2nd generation Cuban American and I can relate to this topic first hand. My learning Spanish was priority #3 for my parents when I was growing up, right behind giving me food and shelter. If I spoke in English at home, my Dad would shake his head in confusion until I spoke Spanish, after which he’d approvingly knod. For a 7 year old this is quite the feat, when all your trying to do is explain how your classmate put her mouth on the water fountain. Furthermore, my Mom made me read one article a month(sometimes a week) in Spanish about something she thought I might find interesting (usually a People en Español issue). However, no matter how much I protested, they stuck to it and nothing would make them happier than to hear me say they were right.

    My husband, however, grew up in quite the opposite situation. Born to Cuban parents, he understands Spanish perfectly and can defend himself in conversation, but I would not say he’s fluent. Which I suppose puts the burden of teaching our kids to be bilingual on me …but I digress.

    Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I’m glad my parents put in the effort that they did and I hope to one day return the favor to my kids. And while agree language does not define the “Hispan-icity” of a person (or their kids), I think it strengthens the bond one has with their cultural and other members of it. And who wouldn’t want that for their children? There are simply some things that cannot be translated.

    1. Christy,

      Thank you for chiming in. Not surprisingly, your comments are insightful and bring to this discussion yet another angle, that of two married second-generation Hispanics with differing degrees of Spanish language command. With hindsight being 20/20 as you stated, do you see yourself exercising the same level of commitment your parents demonstrated with you regarding their desire to ensure you spoke and read Spanish? How do you think your challenge will be the same as your parents and how will it differ? I look fwd to your response.

      Again, thank you for stopping by. I hope you bookmark http://www.BornBiculturalUSA.com, visit often and comment at will.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  6. This is a topic my husband and I discuss frequently. I’m New Yorican and my husband is Ecuadorian so in our house we speak two different dialects of Spanish. We have been together for 11 years and there are still times we are having a conversation and the other will ask what did that mean, then there are those words that can be offensive to one but not the other. I want my children to learn Spanish but then again I feel that they should learn when they are ready (my husband disagrees).

    My first language was Spanish, once I started to speak English I was forced to continue with Spanish by speaking it at home and taking classes in school. Although my mother grew up in NY and her primary language was English, my Father grew up in PR and his was Spanish. There was a role reversal in my house I was the one teaching a foreign language (English) to my father. I would speak to him in Spanish and he would respond in English so he could practice English. I was also the only one of my cousins in New York to speak Spanish, so I when I would go to Puerto Rico with my cousins I was the translator the whole trip, it was more of a job for me than vacation. Instead of thinking of it as a benefit I hated the fact that I was the only one who spoke Spanish.

    My sister in-laws, both formerly monolingual (Spanish), for years have told us to teach the kids Spanish because for a while my children could not communicate with their cousins (my kids don’t speak Spanish). Once the cousins started school, Spanish went out the door and now my sister in-laws are finding themselves learning some English to be able to communicate with their kids. So, although I would like my kids to learn Spanish because it is a huge benefit, I do not think it should be forced on them, nor do I feel it makes them any less Hispanic.

    1. Yesenia,

      Thank you for chiming in. Your post is comprehensive and addresses a multitude of interesting dimensions regarding this complex issue. Up to now, Born Bicultural USA has highlighted many of the benefits of bilingualism, both emotional (bonding with Spanish-only family members both in the US and in our countries of origin) and practical (more competitive for employment opportunities). I appreciate that you’ve also reminded us of some of the burdens regarding bilingualism. When you’re the only bilingual among monolingual family and friends, no longer can you enjoy a vacation or sit back and take in a movie because you’re busy translating for everybody. I feel your pain on this one. As an adult, I’ve had to rewatch most of the childhood movies I viewed with my parents to be able to finally watch them in peace and uninterrupted without the classic Latino parent “que dijo?” (what did they say?). Like everything in life, nothing is perfect and bilingualism does carry some degree of downside. Nevertheless, in the final analysis it appears we all prefer our children be bilingual. However, bilingual or not, our children’s command of Spanish does not alone define their cultural identity. I hope I’m interpreting your thoughts accurately. If not, please set me straight.

      Yesenia, I hope you and Patricio bookmark http://www.BornBiculturalUSA.com, visit often and comment at will.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  7. I absolutely consider my kids Hispanic even though they will most likely never be fluent in Spanish. Being Hispanic to me is more then just being able to speak spanish–it’s about identifying with my culture. My hope is that one day my children will want to immerse themselves more in their roots and want to learn as much as they can about it. Must admit to the occasional pangs of guilt when I have family friends ask me if I have taught my kids spanish—–but as you know—much easier said then done. Here’s something else to think about—what are your thoughts on Hispanic parents who are in this country 30+ years but never grasped the english language???

    1. Harold,

      Thank you for chiming in. You bring up a provocative angle regarding our Hispanic parents who have been in-country for multiple decades and have not learned English. I’ll consider this for a future blog topic. It may expose how we, as “the crossover generation,” hold our immigrant parents to a much different set of criteria than we do our U.S. born children. More importantly, how does this differentiation impact cultural identity across the acculturation spectrum? More to come on this in future blog posts – future blog post notwithstanding, please feel free to sound off now if you prefer.

      Again, thank for your comments Harold. I hope you bookmark http://www.BornBiculturalUSA.com, visit often and comment at will.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  8. My parents had me after two years of living in this country. They were not professionals when they came here and being in Miami they found no need to pick up more than the essential English. This made my first language Spanish.
    I did not find the need to speak English until I was in Kindergarden and I pick it up quickly. The only thing I had a barrier with was the food, I had no idea what a hamburger was. I remember I used to speak to all of my friends from school in Spanish; actually, i spoke it all the way through High school and College, and those that did not speak it I spoke to them in English. I found/find this normal.
    Once, when I was in fifth grade, I had a friend that the year before spoke Spanish, and across the summer he stopped speaking it or understanding it. This stuck with me because I could not understand why I had to translate what his mother was saying to him.
    Since my younger years I have married a “javao”, Puerto Rican. I also moved to Gainesville, FL (amazing the culture shock you get in only a five hour drive). I have a four and one year old and both of them understand everything I tell them in both languages, but my four year is choosing not to speak Spanish because of the following.
    My four year old in Gainesville is not seen as Latin/Hispanic they think she is mixed. My one year old looks “American” and it is unbelievable to some that she is my daughter. Because of this, I am almost positive my oldest has an issue with the fact that others around her do not speak Spanish. She finds it shameful. Once she told her grandmother at an airport loudly so those looking at her can hear it “We are in America and here we speak English”. Also, when went to Colombia she told everyone that Spanish is for Dora the Explorer and could not understand why they chose to speak to her in Spanish and not English. And all I can do was laugh.
    My choice is not to stop talking to them in Spanish. They have the tools to not loose it. I am going to keep taking them visiting Spanish speaking countries, and my father lives with me which gives them no option but having to hear it.
    To me living in Gainesville has felt like a part of my body has been removed. I yearn to go to the only Spanish speaking grocery store in town or Spanish speaking restaurants. I miss seeing my signs in Spanish. Its the language that made me fall in love for the first time, made my body want to get up and dance. Its the language that taught me to argue and make up. Not hearing it like I am used to has made my life kind of bland.
    Eventually my opinion is that because we all have different ways of flavoring our Spanish it is going to become regional. Like the different Creoles from Louisiana and Haiti, or the different kinds of patois/patwa spoken in the Caribbean, West Indies, and the region of Limon, Costa Rica. It could also stay Spanish and be spoken with different dialects like English is spoken in such places as Miami, New York, Bostan, or California. Thanks.

    1. Nayovi,

      Thank you for your thoughts. You bring an interesting perspective to this discussion. Since you’re a Colombian-American who lived in multinational Miami growing up, I can appreciate the culture shock you noted encountering in Gainesville, FL., a southern small town. I’ll be interested to monitor how you manage raising your Hispanic-American bicultural children in Gainesville. I find that successfully managing a bicultural existence came somewhat naturally to us born in the U.S. to immigrant parents. In my humble opinion, the larger challenge will be helping our children balance multiple cultures successfully. Veremos.

      Again, thank for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I look fwd to your future contributions regarding this interesting discussion.


      Alberto Padron

  9. Great discussion going on here – this is wonderful.

    One thing I did forget to post was that back in 1997 I applied for a job. I had listed that I could read and speak Spanish. Not fluent, but enough to understand and somewhat translate. I started on a Monday, and the client had pulled out of the contract. 22 of us sat in a room and stared – long story short, I was pulled out of the room and onto another team because of my ability to understand this language. I was so concerned that they’d expect more that I translated every single piece of training material, our phone scripts, etc., and called my Dad almost every night for a week. I had 4 spanish calls, 525 english calls. It got me in the door of this company, where like any company has its good and bad points, but is still my employer 13 years later. That is why I plan to teach my children the language outside of the school system – so they are able to benefit from opportunities that are out there.

    1. Maria,

      As always, thank you for your interesting commentary.

      I largely debate matters regarding biculturalism on a personal level. I’m pleased you brought the practical matter of employability to light. Strictly from a practical standpoint, the more languages you know, and the employable/competitive you are, especially in a 21st century world. Your 1997 employment story is case in point. Thanks again for sharing your insights here on BornBiculturalUSA.com.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron

    2. This is an awesome subject.

      Personally, my story follows the trend of some of the stories posted here-spanish not included in formative language development-the onset of the cultural utility/importance of the language(spanish)-being able to understand spanish(but not spk)-personal pursuit of learning to speak the language fluently.

      Sadly, somewhere in the story there’s castigation from the hispanic culture for not being as fluent. Which sucks.

      Though, while growing up I feel that most other non-verbal features of hispanic culture are transferred anyway+features of the American(english speaking) culture. And this verbal disconnect allows some to observe and immerse in the hispanic culture without getting wrapped up so much that they become, “My kids don’t speak Spanish, but I learned to speak Spanish first.” Truly, learning spanish first is something to be proud of, but that’s not me. Nor is it your kids. We are a new generation/culture.

      Harold and Maria, you guys inspired me to post today.

      1. Chris,

        Thanks for stopping by and sharing your insights. The complexity of feelings and thoughts surrounding this topic continues to fascinate me. Every post, including yours, only adds texture and pays off this blogs premise…understanding through sharing.

        Happy New Year Chris. I hope you visit again soon.


        Alberto Padron

        Born Bicultural USA

  10. Sure they are… Only if at home they are being taught Hispanic customs and habits, like the music and food preferences, just to name a few.

    If kids understand Spanish but don’t have the courage to use it when needed, doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have a Hispanic heritage. I bet if the travel for some time to a Spanish-only speaking place, they will quickly catch up. They’ve heard it all their life!

    However, If NO Hispanic customs are being kept at home, I wouldn’t consider them Hispanics just by the fact their parents are bi-cultural. If parents have adopted the American way, they just have a Hispanic heritage in their memories and their children will never learn it.

    Many Spanish speaking parents prefer to speak only English to their kids to avoid confusing them; besides it is a hard job to keep in Spanish only mode, when all their answers are in English and they seem not to care about learning your language.

    I’ve found a rewarding effort to keep my answers in Spanish and to pretend I do not understand sometimes, so they have to make an effort. It is also great having visiting grandpa and grandma. They do make the effort if I ignore the situation.

    I think is sad to find kids that don’t speak Spanish, having the opportunity to learn it at home. At the same time I find very upsetting , as Harold mentions, Hispanics that have lived in the US for more than 10 years and have never learned English.

    It is important to never loose and opportunity to maintain bi-culturalism, or better yet, multiculturalism. There is gain and innumerable opportunities on it.

    How can we say for example that Miami or New York are just bi-cultural cities?… Many parallel worlds live together influencing one another every minute. People from unexpected places in the planet are influencing our kids. My neighbor is from China, my son’s best friend is from Haiti, and so on…

    I find that opportunity fantastic!.

    1. Adriana,

      Your thoughts are smart and insightful. Thank you for sharing.

      It appears you’re a global citizen, open to the advantages that come with welcoming cultural differences. In my opinion, you celebrate the promise of America, where neighbors from China, Haiti, Colombia and countless other countries can coexist and grow together. You choose to speak about the upside of multicultural America which is not always easy when you consider some of the cultural tensions in our society. I salute you for being optimistic. I look fwd to future contributions to BornBiculturalUSA.com. Thanks again.


      Alberto Padron

  11. First I must say how proud I am of my husband for maintaining this blog and igniting interesting and relevant conversations and debates about many topics. I don’t get much time away from work, the baby and school to comment much but I do like to hear how successful his blog is becoming. Te amo!

    Okay, a little background first and then my opinions.

    Like my sister Maria mentioned, we grew up with a Dominican father and a British mother. English was emphasized in the home except for the summers when we visited my dad’s family in the D.R. However I always wanted to learn how to speak Spanish. I would ask my dad “How do you say this?” or I would ask him to help me translate my homework just for fun. My third grade teacher even let me teach the class Spanish when I pointed out the spelling word “once” was the same way to spell the number eleven in Spanish. I always considered myself Hispanic, even if I didn’t speak the language well. I have always loved Spanish food, music, celebrations, etc. So even though I do think it is important to learn another language, especially if your family is from a non-English speaking country, I feel that if you embrace other cultural aspects besides the language you can consider yourself Hispanic.

    From my studies at Kean University about bilingual/bicultural education, there are conflicting thoughts about when it is easier to learn a language. Some will say learn when you’re young because you are like a sponge for language. Young kids can hear words and repeat them easily, without even realizing they are speaking another language. They will also develop more natural, native-like accents as they grow older because they will be so accustomed to speaking the language that it will sound natural. On the other hand, people who do not speak English but come to the U.S. educated in their own language can learn English quickly because they have the basics of any language already through their education. Therefore, they have to just transfer the rules of one language and meanings of words to the other language. The difficulty becomes the ability to speak the language clearly (because as you get older your tongue becomes used to the way you already speak) and to have opportunities to practice the language or to have exposure to it.

    For those of you with young children who are teaching them another language but you only hear them talk in English, don’t stop teaching them that language. Past the age of 13 or so it becomes harder to start from scratch. Children have a tendency to prefer one language over the other but it doesn’t mean they’re not learning the other language. Over time they will realize they know another language without even trying and will be thankful that they have that skill, not only to communicate with family and friends but also for job prospects.

    My 2-year old son is exposed to mostly English but we also teach him basic commands and concepts in Spanish and he understands. Some words like “agua” and “uvas” and “carro” he only says in Spanish. Colors and numbers he says in both. And he watches Ni-Hao Kailan, a Chinese based cartoon on Nick Jr. and he says hello, grandpa, push, pull, and other words in Chinese. So honey don’t worry – the way Zo is talking right now he may speak 3 or 4 languages by the time he’s 5!

    Love you!

  12. This is a very sensitive subject for me. My father’s family was from Spain and he grew up in France. So he spoke Spanish, French, English, and then some. My mother is not bilingual. He says it was too hard to try to speak in another language when no one else speaks it at home. While I understand what his predicament must have been, I don’t completely buy it. It’s hard, and it just takes the will and the mind-set. I can’t tell you how hard it has been for me to communicate with my relatives effectively in my very basic French and Spanish that I learned through h.s. and college–not my father. It often feels like I can not really fit into groups, or I can not really say that I am Spanish as my language skills do not support that–not to mention I don’t look as though I speak Spanish with my fair hair and skin (though I think that is probably due to other people’s stereotypes). I often feel frustrated, saddened, and down on myself about my less than fluent language skills. It’s like I don’t belong to a culture that is part mine through heritage.

    To make matters worse, my husband, who is from Colombia, hardly ever speaks Spanish to our kids, now that his mother and grandmother have died. I try to remind him, but it always turns into a fight no matter how I bring it up. It makes me so sad that my children will not have the bilingual language skills that will get them ahead in life, and will make their lives all the richer. It’s particularly sad for me as it’s like history is repeating itself.

    1. Isabelle,

      Thank you for your comments. I’ll address three of your points:

      1) YOUR FATHER AND SPANISH – Your wrote, “… just takes the will and the mind-set.” I respectfully disagree. I have the will, mindset and desire to speak Spanish to my children but it’s very challenging. You see, I operate largely in a English-dominant context. I think in English usually. The same goes for my wife. Consequently, we find it difficult to maintain enough consistent Spanish in the home to effectively rear our children as fluent bilinguals. Your frustration is valid and clear, but I would say that speaking Spanish predominantly in the home is easier said than done in my experience.

      2) LOOKING SPANISH – You wrote, “… I don’t look as though I speak Spanish with my fair hair and skin.” I agree with you when you write that this is largely due to stereotypes. My hope is that through sharing stories like yours, we realize that “looking Spanish” in America is a flawed assumption, since we all don’t necessarily look one way.

      3) DISAGREEMENT WITH SPOUSE – I would like to know more about your husband’s rationale for not wanting to preserve his native Spanish for the benefit of your children. I find his position unproductive but perhaps it’s because I don’t’ understand his logic. I look fwd to more clarity regarding his opinion on this matter.

      Isabelle, you fit into the human box. Ideally, boxes should not matter. I’m saddened about your cultural frustration. I hope expressing your thoughts on this forum allows you to vent, organize your thoughts and achieve a heightened sense of belonging.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron

    2. Hi Isabelle,
      I know just how you feel. I also feel like this is a sensitive subject for me. While I consider myself completely Hispanic (I’m very proud of my heritage) I too feel like I’m missing a big part of my culture because of my lack of Spanish language skills.
      Both of my parents speak Spanish, but didn’t teach it to either me or my other two siblings. Because they experienced prejudice while they were young in school (in regards to speaking Spanish at school) they decided that they would just teach their children English to ease the assimilation process. Though I sorely regret that they were not aware of the fact that a small child can learn two languages easily with no problems, I understand why they made the decision that they did.What I don’t understand is why, once they saw that we were well grounded in English, they never attempted to teach us any Spanish at all. Like you, the little speaking ability that I do have comes from my own studying, not because they ever tried to teach me. I understand fairly well, the dialect spoken here from listening to my parents talk to each other, but like I said, they never attempted to teach us.
      I am now studying Spanish to become fluent, and I truly hope that before I have kids (if I do) that I will be fluent in Spanish so that hopefully they will grow up bilingual and not have to struggle with it later.

      1. Ann,

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Command of Spanish is clearly important to you. I applaud your effort to develop that skill that will facilitate greater degrees of connection with your family’s culture.

        Best regards,

        Alberto Padron
        Born Bicultural USA

  13. Hi, I am a 20 year old girl from Spain and I’m planning to go to the USA to study there. If I like the city where I live, I probably will be there for a long time, maybe years or maybe all my life. If I had children there, I would speak them in spanish, so they can learn our language. I think languages are really important right now and spanish is one of the most important in the world, because a lot of people speaks it. I personally think in the future all the people will talk only one language; english for example, because we are now in a world of communication and we are now nearer than ever. With the internet we can talk daily with people from the other part of the world. We are one now, so why not to think that in the future we will only use one language? But for now, when you are in a work interview, and they ask you if you speak more languages than english, I am pretty sure that if you say YES they will prefer you than others. So, why not to teach our kids with another language to assure them a future? I think culture is a treasure and I will never understand how a parent who CAN teach his sons to speak spanish, doesn’t do it. It’s like having a lot of money and letting your sons die of hunger. Please don’t be ashamed of your origins and your sons will learn to be good persons, because I think you are teaching them with bad values if you show them that kind of racist prejudices.
    Thank you for reading,

    1. Maria,

      Thank you for your comments.

      Which American city have you decided to study in? Each city will provide you a different perspective on the North American experience. Any information we have that could help you progress in your chosen city of study, we’ll post it here on BornBiculturalUSA.com.

      I’m not certain about your one-language world idea. In my opinion, we’re all proud of our county-of-origin language and despite the advancement in communication technology, I believe we’ll always reserve a space for our native tongues. Veremos.

      Please come back soon and continue to share your comments and insights.


      Alberto Padron

  14. First, I want to commend everyone who has written here and especially you, Alberto, for opening such an important dialogue. A nation of proud multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Americans should be able to talk about these questions of identity openly and honestly. We need to do so with respect and sensitivity, as the posters here have done. So here’s my story:

    My mother, Mireya Alvarez, is Panamanian and my father is of Irish descent (O’Neil). They met when he was stationed in Panama during Vietnam. I was raised in New Hampshire where no one except my mother spoke Spanish. She spoke to us in Spanish and we answered her in English. We ate Panamanian food at home and learned children’s songs in Spanish. Because my mother looked and sounded so different from everyone else’s mother, I was keenly aware of my bi-cultural roots from an early age. I have great regret that this awareness did not motivate me to master Spanish. I studied Spanish throughout high school, college and graduate school but still feel my spoken Spanish is only passable. (But I did take a graduate seminar taught all in Spanish at FIU and got an A! My poor mother worked as hard on those papers as I did.)

    Anyway, between the last name and the language, I’ve had Hispanic issues most of my adult life. It is only an issue, of course, because I am very proud of my Panamanian half and am much closer to my family in Panama than my father’s family. So it somehow offends when someone says to me, You’re not Hispanic…as someone in my office just did a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned my mother is Panamanian. It is curious how others cast ethnicity as a club you can sign up for if you meet their arbitrary membership requirements.

    So consider this: I am acquainted with a woman born in Colombia and adopted by Americans when she was one month old. She has her adoptive parents’ Anglo name, was raised in the white suburbs of Connecticut knowing nothing of Hispanic culture and never spoke a word of Spanish until college.

    So, what is the criteria for Hispanic? Blood? Culture? Language? And whose place is it to decide?

    All of this has made me obsessively driven to make sure my 2-yr-old son is bilingual. The opportunity for him to learn the language naturally remains one of my most compelling reasons to stay in Miami. I am grateful that my husband who is trilingual (French, Japanese, English) is completely supportive although he doesn’t speak Spanish himself. I just enrolled my son in a bilingual preschool. I intend to send him to a Spanish immersion school. He’s only one-quarter Panamanian but I hope he embraces and celebrates that piece. I don’t want him to struggle with a second language as I have. Bilingualism is a valuable skill set but it also, in ways subtle and profound, shapes how you view yourself. As you say Alberto, bilingualism is a gift I can give him now and later, he’ll be grateful.

    1. Deborah,

      You must be a writer (wink). You articulate soo darn well. But I digress.

      Your story is fascinating for many reasons. When you imply regret for not taking advantage of learning Spanish as a child, I understand that as a practical matter, but from a societal standpoint, I wish it didn’t impose the burden on you that I deduce it has. I also identify with your frustration in having anyone attempting to decide the legitimacy of you declaring yourself Hispanic. The complexity of your story plus the story of your Colombian-born, Connecticut –raised friend and countless others prove that the determinants of cultural identity are multi-faceted. Ultimately, the individual decides, not society, who you are, in my opinion.

      As for your son, I’m undecided what to opine. On the one hand, my instinct is to celebrate your decision to introduce Spanish to him. On the other hand, I wonder “Would he be just fine if he didn’t know Spanish? Would that make the quality of his life any less enjoyable?” I wouldn’t pretend to know the answer to these questions. I’m simply explaining my unresolved feelings regarding this matter. Perhaps I’m rationalizing this whole thing because I must come to terms with the uncomfortable fact that my two oldest sons do not speak functional Spanish and I carry guilt because of it. Sorry for being all over the place but this subject rattles me.

      In any event, thank you soo much for sharing your unique and insightful story. I find the commonalities and uniqueness of all of our stories fascinating and enriching. It provides the varied perspectives that hopefully lead to greater learning, collaboration and consideration between us all, especially those who insist on determining our degree of “Hispanicity” for us.

      Again, thank you soo much for chiming in Deborah. Your thoughts on this and any matter are always welcomed here on BornBiculturalUSA.com.


      Alberto Padron

  15. You raise a good question, Alberto, about how much value Spanish will have to my son. The answer, I suppose, is that we can’t really know at the moment. But what I do know is that the moment for him to acquire the language naturally is now. So I want to capitalize on his capacity for learning language now, a capacity that will diminish with time as we all know. I can see no disadvantage and hope that later bilingualism is simply a fact of his life as it is for you.

    I cannot resist responding to Maria also. Having traveled to places like China where there are dozens of distinct languages spoken in one country, I think there is virtually no chance we will have a one-language world. The practical and cultural obstacles to such a notion are insurmountable. I cannot fathom the Muslim people of Iran or Saudi Arabia in this generation or any of the future giving up their ancient language for English. The world does not share a common alphabet — alphabet systems in Asia, parts of Europe and the Middle East are far different, and much more complex, than ours. To your point about communication — the internet in Japan is in kanji. Same in China and dozens of other places in Asia where people do not use Roman letters.

    What linguists do see is the disappearance of older, indigenous languages all over the world. And of course, business around the world is increasingly conducted in English by multi-lingual and well educated individuals who represent only a small fraction of the world’s population. What we might see in the future is highly sophisticated translation technology that allows for instantaneous language interpretation, thereby effectively uniting us. In that scenario, which seems quite possible to me, we wouldnt lose any languages, but gain the ability to communicate more effectively across borders while preserving out natives tongues.

    Also, I’d caution against quick judgments about those who speak Spanish teaching it to their children. Learning a language is a two-way street. My mother wanted me to speak Spanish but she couldnt force me to do it. There are many reasons why I child might respond that way. There are also good reasons that a Spanish speaking parent might not teach Spanish — because they want their child to adapt, to fit in, to speak without an accent, which unfortunately can be stigmatized in the US.

  16. I was looking for this topic! I was born and raised in California and my parents are from Mexico. When I was in school we always only spoke spanish at home. We also went back to visit family in Mexico every summer. I was bilingual but always felt I spoke english better. I took a job that required me to speak spanish and that was not a big deal. Well I get a call from a customer in Puerto Rico and the spanish dialect is completely different. I was very nervous and thought I cannot do this or my spanish is not good enough. To make a long story short I have been helping customers in Puerto Rico for over 12 years now. I have even traveled on business to Puerto Rico. I always tell everyone I can speak Mexican spanish and Puerto Rican spanish. Everyone thinks spanish is spanish, but even I have had a lesson in this and it is not. Well I have 4 children and of course I have a stuggle with them being fluent in spanish. My husband is also Mexican – American but never learned the language or heritage. I grew immersed in the language and culture. I try very hard to teach them spanish and it seems forced at times. I find it works best when I just say a sentence or a word naturally cause I want to speak spanish. Even though my children don’t speak spanish fluently; they understand many: commands, words, jokes, names and even signs or sighs in spanish. “Que te dije” and they know. They also use alot of words in spanish that they do not understand are “spanish only”. I have perfected and practiced my spanish as I grew older also and along the way my children are learning. I do not think it will ever be the same as I was raised with parents from a country where thier only language was spanish, but I always want them to be open minded to more then just one language and culture. 1st generation bi-cultural adults have a bigger challenge ahead of them, then our parents. I do think most importantly to encourage your kids and have them be proud of who they are and thier heritage is important. My parents spoke spanish only and we lived the Mexican culture every day, but they did not teach me how to be comfortable and proud with who I am. I struggled in my teen years about being bi-lingual. As I grew older I learned to have respect for knowing another language and what my parents accomplished. They learned english and have merged into American lifestyle, but they always remember where they came from and how thier country shaped them to come here and share thier culture and strong work ethic. I think teaching our children to be comfortable and proud of thier heritage is just as important as teaching them the language.

  17. Hi Diana,

    Thank you for stopping by Born Bicultural USA. I hope you check out some of the other topics discussed in this forum and deposit the same degree of quality feedback you’ve displayed on this post.

    Regarding this topic of culture, language and our children, I identify intimately with the challenges you describe. I agree with your conclusion that the challenge of gifting to our children our parent’s language and culture is more difficult for our generation than it was for our one-language, one-culture parents. I also appreciate that you acknowledge both language and culture as key elements of identity, and not just language. In my humble opinion, I feel we must come to terms with the fact that our challenges and moment in time are different and in some ways more challenging than it was for our parents. I don’t believe much good can come from beating ourselves up too much if our children don’t have the same balance of multiple language and culture we enjoyed. Our children will also be bicultural and bilingual just not to the exact same degree as us. Hopefully, as long as we reinforce the element of pride that connects us to our ancestor’s language and culture, our children will be just fine as it relates to their identity in America.

    Best regards,
    Alberto Padron

  18. It was nice to stumble on an article that hit so close to home. My father came to this country at the age of 17. When I was born about 10yrs later, he was working to master his English language skills. He did everything in English, and since my mother was born here, I grew up in a completely English speaking household.

    But as you point out, I can not speak with the older generation on my father’s side of the family. I have never had a conversation of any depth with my grandfather. It is sad to me, but far more so for my father. I can see he has a deep regret over this.

    I still cherish the heritage, my family. I am close to them, yet separated from some who do not speak English.

  19. The way I see it and experienced, if you are raising your kids in the USA, they are going to have that American type of mentality because of the society they are exposed than their parents/grandparents. As for languages, I really don’t see why you should regret it. If you some connection to the language, be it you just understand it, or don’t speak it fluently, it should still be very good. The point is to familarize your kids about their heritage and ancestors and culture..and there are many ways to do it, not just the language! What about the food, festivals, clothing, history..etc? Aren’t those about related to culture as well? However, in referring to those who don’t speak English, the best to do is try to respond to them in that language. If you don’t know it at all, meaning not even understanding, you can always ask your relatives for help you in how to say things, and through that as well, you’ll learn little by little as well right? Well unless you refuse it flat out and state your parents never taught you..which is ridiculous and stupid because even if your parents never taught you and you feel you need the language, YOU should take the initiative to learn it, not them. Don’t blame parents for any of that ever as they cannot hand feed you everything..you need to take a part it in as well. For me, I speak English 99% of the time. Reason is because I was born and raised here, and feel comfortable using it more. I can speak some Spanish (learned in high school), and I can speak some of an Indian language called Malayalam as I understand everything pretty well, unless it’s very advanced, like the language used in SAT testing with all those words you never heard of, then I get confused haha. The only time I use it is for my grandparents..I love them with all my heart, and I know they love me and my brother. Even though we may not be the perfect speakers in the world or not fluent, who the hell cares, we can communicate to them in way which they can understand (we can understand them well). I’m an American alright, but I have Indian values instilled me…so I’m not too American nor too Indian, making me an Indian-American. Why be ashamed of not knowing another language? When attempting to communicate when you need it, you should realize you’ll tend to grasp more and learn bit by bit and they’ll help you out also. If they criticize, they are nothing but stupid, because they may think they are more superior for knowing another languagte. I find putting too much pressure and stuff can cause failure, but that’s my opinion anyway. Hope you respond 🙂

  20. Welcome to Born Bicultural USA Gina,

    Thank you for your contribution. Many of your opinions are shared with other responders to this thread. I recommend you review them to see how others have expressed their thoughts regarding this interesting matter.

    You wrote, “Why be ashamed of not knowing another language?” My response is that everyone’s reality is different. For me, I find a unique feeling of “pena” when I’m in circumstance where my parents and children are present. The root cause for this pena is the language disconnect that doesn’t allow for effective communication and bonding occurring between the youngest generation (my children) and the eldest (my parents). The at-fault party for this disconnect falls on me. I’m the “link generation” and I’m disappointed in not managing this critical link better. In sharing this story with others, I find that my experience is not unique.

    In any event, I hope you find this forum accepting of multiple viewpoints. Please visit again and feel free to contribute as often as you like.

    Again, thank you for stopping by.

    Best regards,

    Alberto Padron
    Born Bicultural USA

    1. Hello Alberto,

      I came across this site again and saw you replied. And I can’t find the other responses from the other posters. Anyways, I hope I didn’t offend anyone at all. I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t be taught a second language. If they are have the chance to and are interested in learning, they have every right to learn the language and go for it. But I’m tired of hearing that language is the ONLY thing that’ll tie to your cultural roots..it is NOT TRUE! Sick of hearing that because the kid don’t speak Spanish or whatever at home that they are not hispanic, even if they show their hispanic roots in other ways..and it annoys me as hell that people are being way too critical over all this. Besides it’s only up to the individual whether they’ll keep their culture or not. LANGUAGE DOES NOT guarantee that kids will keep the culture! It all depends where they grew up most of their life. I have a perfect example of a person I know..she speaks her parents’ native tongue fluently, and she can even read and write fluently in her parents’ language as well, but she is ALL American..completely americanized because she grew up in the States. She lost touch with her culture . She barely speaks her language now except when it is absolutely necessary (which is very rare) she’s married with a kid now and she’s living the complete American life. She doesn’t celebrate holidays, nor eat the food anymore or anything as she did when younger. She chose that kind of life that she felt was right for her and was built with that mentality. And it’s funny that I know many who don’t know a word of their parent’s native tongue and still keep the traditions and culture alive even after marriage and children..and it’s being passed to their children too. Only that person can define who they are, no one else! It’s not the end of the world if the language is not spoken at all, but again, when your kids communicate with grandparents, you should encourage and help them speak when they need to and ask for help, the grandparents should too..they’ll def learn like that. Don’t yell at them and make sure they don’t get any criticisms because it can have a negative impact leading to unwanted consequences. That’s a big problem, people are criticizing the parents and kids for this claiming that if they don’t speak it, they are not Hispanic/Indian…etc, and it pisses me off sometimes because neither the parents and kids should be blamed as it’s due to the society that they are living in that makes them who they are. Some kids can speak their native tongue though they are raised elsewhere that’s true, but they may have been living in that country of the motherland where they grasped it, or they are just used to responding in the language the parents speak when the parents speak to them, but again it depends on their choice if they want to speak or not and how comfortable they are using it, but for those who don’t, it’s not going to ruin their lives or anything. It won’t end their lives or put them in critical condition. As Allan Vargas have pointed out, being Hispanic, Indian, African..etc is a culture, not a language. The most IMPORTANT thing is that your kids know about where they are from and what their cultural background is. Language is ONE tool to familiarize them with their roots, but it’s NOT the only option! There are so many ways they can use to help them learn their cultural background. When communicating with those who don’t know English or whatever, yes you should do your best to encourage them to try to speak spanish or any language of the people who know no English. they WILL LEARN something..the level of their fluency and how they speak, even if it’s really bad should not matter at all..because either they will form a good bond with the non English speakers..what matters that you all love each other regardless of what you are and what your viewpoints are 😉 No human being is perfect in this world, nor will they ever be. We all need to learn to accept and love them regardless of who they are and what they have 😉

  21. To me what is important, is that being Hispanic is a culture and not a language. My children are 1st generation and grew up in cities that were not Spanish centric as say Miami. Their education was in local schools that are pretty much Anglo/Saxon in formation. I have two that speak Spanish fluently (sound like gringos), two that understand it but kill it while speaking and it’s all OK.

    What they do know, love and understand is our Hispanic culture. They understand the importance of Famila, Abuelo, Abuelita, Tio, Tia, Prima, Primo, Padrino and Madrina. They spend time with their familia that is not only Hispanic but includes Europeans and Americans. They know what a Quince is, Reyes Magos and Dia De Los Muertos. They enjoy Sancocho, Arepas, Patacones and Empanadas.

    My children have never gone to Colombia but they know it through my romantic memories. A country I have loved but is no longer mine. They also experience Colombia through the eyes of my brothers and aunts again a beautiful country that I doubt exists in the same way as we have romanticized it.

    We have also exposed them to our Hispanic literature, authors that I love such as Gabo, Isabel Allende and Mario Benedetti.

    Are my children Hispanic, my answer is yes. They understand and love their culture.

    1. This is exactly what I meant in my post. My children are still too young to understand about culture but I plan to teach him. There are a lot of things I don’t agree with my Mexican culture but it is ok for them to know because it teach them empathy for others and to value what they have. You are absolutely right, language doesn’t define your culture it comes from much more than that.

  22. I agree with Allan Vargas..being Hispanic is a culture, not a language. My kids don’t know Spanish either, but they can tell you a whole bunch of stuff about Spanish culture, ask them anything, they are like experts. I was like you at first, thought the language was important must, and I tried to force them to speak the language, but honestly I failed because I just made them extremely uncomfortable even more to a point..it was my fault as you can say. I should have not forced and let them gain the curiosity themselves, and I ruined it. However, I no longer regret them not speaking Spanish, because they are heavily exposed to Spanish culture and know the customs and values of Hispanic heritage, which they surprisingly strictly follow despite their American ways lol. However, we have made numerous trips to Ecuador, and though they don’t really speak Spanish, they are still loved by everyone because they all show respect for the culture, however I do admit they do attempt to speak Spanish to my parents and some family members who don’t speak English, and actually do learn a little bit as my family understands this scenario well and help them out when they attempt, instead of ridiculing. But most of them do speak English in my family..and yet we all still have a strong bond formed among each other, no matterwhat we use..English or Spanish. We love each other regardless..and that’s important. So, yes, even though my kids don’t speak Spanish, they are still Hispanic because they know the heritage and value of it through what they grew up with. Language is only one aspect of culture, it’s not everything. You don’t need to follow all the aspects to be considered Hispanic.

  23. “To me what is important, is that being Hispanic is a culture and not a language. My children are 1st generation and grew up in cities that were not Spanish centric as say Miami. Their education was in local schools that are pretty much Anglo/Saxon in formation. I have two that speak Spanish fluently (sound like gringos), two that understand it but kill it while speaking and it’s all OK.

    What they do know, love and understand is our Hispanic culture. They understand the importance of Famila, Abuelo, Abuelita, Tio, Tia, Prima, Primo, Padrino and Madrina. They spend time with their familia that is not only Hispanic but includes Europeans and Americans. They know what a Quince is, Reyes Magos and Dia De Los Muertos. They enjoy Sancocho, Arepas, Patacones and Empanadas.

    My children have never gone to Colombia but they know it through my romantic memories. A country I have loved but is no longer mine. They also experience Colombia through the eyes of my brothers and aunts again a beautiful country that I doubt exists in the same way as we have romanticized it.

    We have also exposed them to our Hispanic literature, authors that I love such as Gabo, Isabel Allende and Mario Benedetti.

    Are my children Hispanic, my answer is yes. They understand and love their culture. ”

    This is exactly me. I know my culture, but I don’t speak the language too often, only in rare cases. I can speak ok..I don’t know how “fluent” I am. I am more comfortable with English because that’s what I’ve been to expose to heavily, so I don’t really enjoy speaking it too much, unless it’s a stranger, or with a few family members who don’t know English. People are always saying, language is a big part of culture…I don’t think so. I think it’s nice to a know a little bit for communication purposes with those who don’t know English so you can get across when talking, but it’s not a whole missing piece, and if one does not know, why even stress? It shouldn’t be too much an issue if they don’t even know, even if they attempt to speak. When confronting something like this, coax them comfortabley and encourage them. Yet people are too critical and self ignorant for their own selves and then complain about it and then kids start complaining “Oh mommy and daddy didn’t teach me”. Instead of blaming the parents, why don’t the kids take initiative to learn the language themselves if they want instead having the parents hand feed it to them. As, parents, the only thing you can do is guide them to make the right choices in life and guide them in the good path so they can be good human beings. This world is so f*ing corrupt now and needs to change ASAP. Culture, language interests hobbies come later. Those things you can introduce your kids by talkiing to them about it, and they may have an interest, but like many parents, do NOT FORCE it on them! Because I will 99.99% guarantee hounding things like these will bruise and strain relationships.

  24. I was born and raised in Southern California. I too grew up in a spanish speaking home. My husband of 20 years is from Mexico so he also is fluent in spanish. Our first two kids who are now 15 & 20 grew up speaking spanish. However, the kids grew up and they just wanted to speak english. It was ok with me since I could communicate with them in either language. My husband wanted to practice his english so he would speak to them in English. The problem is with our third child who is 10 years old, he does not speak spanish. I am sadden by this because he doesn’t get the best of both worlds. We haven’t gone to Mexico lately because I don’t want to have him feel left out when we speak spanish to the relatives. I feel very guilty and dissapointed because it was so easy to teach him spanish as his first language. I don’t understand why he doesn’t pick it up since me and my husband speak spanish to eachother. I now read bilingual books to him and have started speaking more spanish to him. I just hope that it’s not too late! I do think that speaking the language is important and we should make an effort to teach our kids if we are fluent.

    1. @ Eva Luna…why are you are worrying about your son not speaking Spanish and how he feels left out if you ever go to Mexico? Reason is because when he does go to Mexico he will definetely learn it and grasp it some aspects of speaking. Exposure to a region where the language is the main language spoken will definitely help grasp speaking skills. Heck you don’t probably even have to teach him lol, it’ll just come on his own. He’ll probably be shy at first, but coax him comfortably to attempt to speak..don’t hound him! Do take him to Mexico and let him enjoy it, and he’ll probably enjoy learning Spanish as well. I really find teaching languages though books and and forcing them to speak where not necessary doesn’t do much or have a good effect. My friend from a Chinese family was in Chinese school for 8 years now, and she hardly can speak, but can understand a bit. You would think the kids would come out speaking like a native, but not the case. If you bring in the fun and enjoyment by going to Mexico, he’ll def learn some Spanish, or if not at least understand it, which I think is better than nothing. Does he understand at least?. Anyway, kids learn 10x better when some fun and enjoyment is incorporated into it, not if it is treated like some chore..

  25. I don’t know. I guess what it means to be “Hispanic” is speaking fluent Spanish like a native (English only used for career and society), following the culture strictly..only doing Hispanic things, watch Spanish movies, listen to Spanish music, eat the food, having only Spanish friends, only marrying a Spanish person AND NOT following or doing anything associated with American or of any other culture. Then you’re a true Hispanic. If you are “Hispanic-American”, you do follow some of the customs of Spanish culture, but since you are raised in the US, you have a different mentality, a more of a “American” mentality than a “Spanish” one. Some Hispanic-Americans may know the language well, or know just a little or just understand, some may not know at all. Some will eat the foods in a daily basis, others will hardly eat. Others may like Spanish music and the festivals and stuff, others may not, though many of the Hispanic Americans I know don’t like Spanish entertainment much….it’s Taio Cruz, Ludacris, Flo-Rida, Akon for them haha. And so forth..so “Hispanic-American” may mean that your kids have some grasp of Spanish culture, but not everything regardless of language and customs, as they tend to be more “American” as a result of growing up in the US, but they do have some familiarity with their cultural background, even though they tend to be more Americanized. An “American” who is of Spanish descent won’t know NOTHING…no idea of the language, know nothing about the fiestas, food..etc. They just grow up like an American of American heritage. For me, I consider myself being “Hispanic-American”, I can speak very little Spanish, but understand very well. I’ve been to Spain several times and I find that at least knowing a little Spanish is enough get through who don’t know English..plus many of them do speak English, so we do bond and get along. I find language a tool for communication purposes, not a “cultural” one. Whatever language we use we’ll bond instantly. And even if one does not know at all, if they at least understand it..it’s better than not knowing at all. Do I regret not being fluent Spanish? NO. I feel I have a descent amount of it..I understand it really well since my parents speak all the time, and I can speak a little, though not much. I prefer to speak English as it’s what I’m comfortable with and grew up around….so I hardly even use Spanish and you’ll probably never see me use it haha, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget though. It’s been like that since I was little so it’s wired in my brain. I love the food though and do follow the traditions and customs often..I find it amusing. I like some Spanish music, like David Bisbal..but I don’t like Hispanic films much. I love English films and Korean drama though LOL . I also don’t have any plans to move to Spain or Spanish speaking country..I feel America is my home since I was raised here, but I’ll always visit there once in a while :). So I am a Hispanic-American…..an American girl with a touch of Hispanic culture ;). Ok Alberto, what do you think?

  26. Jennie,

    Thank you for your comprehensive and well stated thoughts. You and I share similar views of navigating two worlds. I agree with many of your assertions.

    However, there is a distinct point of departure. I have a very operational use of Spanish, particularly in spoken form. As such, I disagree when you write, ” I find language a tool for communication purposes, not a “cultural” one.” I concede this is true for you. However, for me, there is great cultural currency exchanged when engaging Latinos in Spanish. I have access to a dimension of closeness to culture that is chalk-full of richness I highly value. This access is not unique to Spanish-based cultures. This access and exchange occurs when you come across a familiar accent, even when speaking the same language. For example, a Texan in NYC feels a heightened degree of association when a fellow Texan accent emerges from a room filled with otherwise unfamiliar NYers.

    Jennie, thanks again for sharing your thoughts here on http://www.BornBiculturalUSA.com. I look forward to your future contributions.


    Alberto Padron

    1. I truly respect your opinion on this..and you’re not the only one I’m sure who feels like this. But I find many Hispanics/Latinos..like you mentiioned the “New Yoricans” feel the same way I do, though I met a few who has the same viewpoints as you. I do agree with you that language is a tool that can connect to your roots, it’s true indeed, but there are many other things as well that connect you to your roots. And yes, lots of people show pride of their heritage when speaking the language, but also many who don’t speak the language as well. As someone mentioned earlier, I think it just depends on familiar with your culture and how much you were immersed in it that will connect you to your roots. For some, it may be the language, others, it may other things and so on. However at the end, it does not mean, that one who speaks the language is more superior than those who don’t (sadly which does happen in a very ignorant world we have today)..either way, they all will show Hispanic pride somehow and show how great it is to be Spanish. Language is not the ONLY thing that determine that! Key thing is here every individual is unique..and regarding to Hispanics, each Hispanic is different and have very different viewpoints..however, whatever every Hispanic has and don’t have, I 100% gurantee they will show the pride of being hispanic, regardless if they speak the language, or anything else.

      1. Jennie,

        I agree with you in that language is not the exclusive connecter to culture. Each connecter to culture is valuable. To the extent you can enjoy the cultural exposure the connecters you possess provide you, I celebrate that. I hope I did not convey an air of superiority. That was not the intent.

        On their current path, my children will not enjoy the same degree of Spanish language command that I enjoy. Nevertheless, my family and I try to provide them as many other cultural exposure points we can in hopes that it enriches their lives and to some degree, connect them to their heritage.

        Again, your contributions are highly valued. Thank you for sharing your insights Jennie.

        Best regards,

        Alberto Padron

  27. “On their current path, my children will not enjoy the same degree of Spanish language command that I enjoy. Nevertheless, my family and I try to provide them as many other cultural exposure points we can in hopes that it enriches their lives and to some degree, connect them to their heritage.”

    Have you talked to your kids about this situation? How do they feel about the Spanish language? Reason why I”m saying is I’m kind of in the same situation as where I feel I really want them to talk Spanish at home, but they prefer English. They used to talk Spanish when very little, but once starting school, they started to speak only English. I don’t want to force them because I know language also deals with a level of comfortness, and hounding/forcing the language upon them can/will create problems unless your are very lucky. Happened to my brother where he would force (kind of harshly too) them to speak Spanish..and it resulted in the kids hating the language and later hating the culture, but I just think that was poor parenting and was done in the wrong way…some ppl prefer one language over another because they don’t feel comfortable using the language they don’t use since they were heavily exposed to another language that was the main language spoken in the region they are growing up in. And I talked to this with my kids and they mentioned that..because they are living in a place where the primary language is English since birth,. In our house, it may be mainly Spanish, but outside it’s mainly English because all the friends and ppl speak English. Compared to the English speaking community, the Spanish speaking community is far less, not saying that there aren’t millions of Spanish-speaking Hispanics in US..but English is most widely spoken everywhere by millions of ppl from all over the world in the USA. If it was the opposite, the scanario would be opposite. So I do kind of understand them and their viewpoints and I see where they are coming from..but at least I”m happy they can understand the language and are still amused of the culture..so they do have some idea of it. I’m empathize if your kids say they wished they can speak fluently and sometimes it can get to the parents, but again, maybe they are happy with the Spanish command they already gained, no matter how limited or broken it may be. They may view this differently than you do depending where they are growing up and what they are exposed to in the society you are living. If you haven’t discussed this, I would suggest you discuss them with this in a friendly conversation and just share opinions and viewpoints with each other and see how you all feel on this. If there is a problem, you can always find something to resolve it 🙂 Good luck!

  28. Your kids are not Hispanic if they don’t speak Spanish..really? I just read an article about a mother who got comments saying her 5 year old son will grow up gay because he was wearing a Daphne costume from the show Scooby Doo..luckily the mom defended her point and knows better than that. Honestly these are stereotypes and it’s ridiculous to look into them. You sons will always have Hispanic blood in them. Pretty soon I bet ppl are gonna say “If a Hispanic marries a person outside the Hispanic community, they will no longer be considered Hispanic”. And honestly, people are inventing problems with this topic of mixed marriage. They are just creating and inventing these stereotypes to create controversy and stupidity. I’m full Italian and obviously can speak fluent Italian, my kids are born and raised here in UK, and don’t have as much command. I honestly do wish they did as I have tried to get them to be fluent in Italian, but they just don’t seem comfortable..but no one’s to blame. The society they are raised made them with that kind of mentality. I accepted that fact, but even if they don’t speak the language no way means they are not Italian..they have that Italian blood in them and no way can they get rid of it. They do know the basis of the culture though..and I’m thankful for that at least. So again, it’s a stereotype, and you like the 95% of ppl in this world are engaging in it. Really sad.

  29. Hi John,

    Thank you for your contribution to Born Bicultural USA. This forum welcomes your perspective. I was able to follow your logic with relative ease up until you wrote:

    “…you, like the 95% of ppl in this world, are engaging in it. Really sad.”

    I deduce that the “it” you are referring to is “stereotyping.” I disagree with your assertion John. The stated purpose of this blog is to, “gain understanding through sharing.” I take no aim at stereotyping. I simply share my experience, hope that my readers will share theirs and the consequence of this be arriving at an understanding that may have not otherwise occurred. Fortunately, the promise of “understanding through sharing” has remained the primary value for visiting Born Bicultural USA. The hope is that you continue to visit this forum and contribute to this interesting discussion.

    Best regards,

    Alberto Padron
    Born Bicultural USA

  30. I agree with this. My 3 daughters used to speak fluent Spanish when they were just babies because that’s what we spoke at home, only Spanish, but once they started school they stopped speaking and had refused to speak even when we demanded them to…the “No English at home” rule failed you can say….they always find ways to get out of it. I don’t know why it’s like that, but I guess it’s the society they are growing up in..everyone they are around speaks English..even in our large Hispanic community, all the kids and some of the adults speak English only. Funny we promoted Spanish classes for them every week and yet none of them hardly learned to speak, or just forget what they learned afterwards. Only very few learned well, but yet they still speak English and just talk baby “Spanish” when teasing someone. I guess if they were living and were raised in a Hispanic country from birth..it wouldn’t be the case. Anyway, I’ve come to terms with it and accepted that. But they enjoy being part of the culture and I’m greatful for that. So I guess even if your sons don’t speak the language, just be greatful for the Hispanicness that they do have. Language is not the only thing that determines you are Hispanic. Besides in this world one can’t possibly get or acheive EVERYTHING that they wish for nor meet all the expectations in life. We all have missing gaps and will have disappointments, but all we can do is accept what was given to us.


    Dont let them be like ME…. I am 24 and I dont speak Spanish and it has been absolute HELL for me because of it. When people look at me they know I am Latino but because I dont speak Spanish, Latinos routinely disrespect me. To make matters worse, getting a job is hard as hell… people want to hire me because I am Latino but when they find out I dont speak Spanish they tend to act as if they got cheated and want to get rid of me.

    Teach them and FAST otherwise you are setting them up to struggle hard in life and with what they are.

    1. Rico,

      Your story is sobering. The degree of judgment you’ve experienced is unforturnate. Thank you for coming to this forum to share your perspective.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  32. @Rico
    Criticism is everywhere and will always continue on forever. Doesn’t matter how perfect you are, you’ll always be put down for something..I think people have just gotten ridiculous and just gotten way too selfish and greedy. That is really unfortunate to hear that because you don’t speak Spanish, you are thrown in the back burner, and that is really wrong of them to do so.

    I’ve been reading things related to this before. Not only is this happening to Spanish kids, but many of the Asian kids here too are going through the same thing (Chinese Indians etc..). Maybe you can ask them of how they feel about the Spanish language and coax them to let out their feelings, but whatever they say about it, just don’t hound them..accept how they feel. They may not feel comfortable speaking the language, which should be understood because of certain factors and as some had said on here, it should not be forced at all. You force (especially if it is harsh) the language and culture onto your kids, no doubt they will hate it and will abandon it when they get older. I had experienced that before. Well I’m an Indian and I ran into these conflicts before. I was born and brought up in the US. My family thinks they are nothing but superior so everything has to be done by their expectations…explains why our family is breaking apart and the younger generation is avoiding them as much as they can. Anyway, as for the Indian language, my level of comfort was destroyed all thanks to my mom. She would always complain that my brother and I don’t know nothing of our language nor culture, but we tend to know and understand a bit more than she does. Last time I went to Kerala, I attempted to speak to my grandparents and caught on really quickly. No one pointed fingers or anything, but seemed pleased for at least trying. I started to enjoy speaking the language and felt I spoke pretty well (already understood it). That’s how much I felt encouraged. It shows that criticism is not the way to go for anything. However, when I came back to the US, my mom again was complaining, don’t know why. She all of a sudden yelled at me b/c I don’t know the language even after I spoke up there…and I told her how I felt, only to get a lambasting again. Made me angry, and now I will absolutely not speak. However, I do speak to only a few people..mostly strangers and a few who don’t speak English, but mainly when no one is around. And I’m secretly learning a bit more, including writing and such..but I am not telling anyone in my family because they will just bag on me and hound me to perfect it and if I do, they will just show it off and walk on other people who don’t have that..not good. I’m probably not fluent, but I don’t feel it’s necessary at all. Plus I have no plans nor do I ever want to go back to India. The people there are just too much to handle. So I’m an Indian-American. I’m married now with a daughter, and my daughter knows a bit of my culture and such. I talk to her sometimes about the things we do, but I don’t force it onto her. I asked her if she wanted to learn the language, and at first she felt a bit eerie. Told her it’s ok and if she wants to learn, just ask me. Funny after a long time she started to gain interest and is gaining bit by bit. Asks me what this and that means, and I tell her. She can now say basic sentences because she finds it so much fun..but again the reason is I don’t shove it into her throat. I felt I was doing the right thing because I knew it was better for her to discover her own roots and gain the curiosity herself, rather than slamming her, just like what happened to me and to many people I have seen. So I would suggest talking to them about it, and also how you feel too. Maybe they will open up, and as they get older, they probably would want to learn a bit more.

    1. Justin,

      You bring an interesting perspective, that of a non-Latino. You remind us that the generational language issue is not unique to Hispanic-Americans. I respect your decision to select a non-aggressive approach to teaching your daughter the language of your forefathers, however I don’t think there’s a right and wrong way to manage this complex matter. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with Born Bicultural USA.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  33. “I don’t think there’s a right and wrong way to manage this complex matter”.

    Just have to comment though that although there are different approaches to handle this, you need to be aware on the kind of impact it may have on them. I agree with the other person and am sure the non-aggressive approach may be the best thing to do..b/c sometimes being harsh can cause resentment in one’s identity, and of course, no one wants that. Yes people will criticize always..that’s just life and we have to deal with it. You’ll never escape from criticism..will always be there. I never cared for being Hispanic and assumed myself an American, my parents accepted that too, though we do follow a few Spanish customs..when I was 17 I went to South America and started to gain insight of my ethnic background..and was interested in Spanish after a long time. I took courses and picked it up really quickly…, after only a certain time, I can speak/read/write Spanish quite well now :). But I’m still comfortable to consider myself more American since I am born and raised here, so I would say I’m an American with a Hispanic touch. I’m glad my parents did not force it on me, and like the other person said, it would be better to discover this all yourself when you get curious, I think allowing this would help you grasp better..and I think you would learn much better, without any discomfort. Younger kids may seem not interested, but I know when you get older, you do question yourself and get curious on all this things, unless you were hounded by others which made you uncomfortable (not a good way either). I know some who still resent this even when they are older due to these circumstances. Plus you discover this all your own, you would have so much fun with rather than seeing it as some chore, like many kids at Chinese School..etc tend to see. Having fun is the best way to learn something because it will open you up and make you want to learn so much more. That’s how I learned. It’s good a motivation factor. The typical homework thing never guarantees anything. I’ve seen people hounding their kids on all this matter, it works for some, and others it just causes hatred for their culture. They may follow it when they are kids, but after when they get older, they’ll just lose it because they don’t want to deal with it anymore. Some will say it’s selfish, but obviously there’s a a reason for all this. And one more thing, only the individual can identify who they are or who they want to be, parents can’t really decide..if they are very firm that they want their kids to be only Spanish or anything else, it’s best just to live in a country where there are only Spanish speaking people..etc. Because when you live abroad, you are exposed to different types of people and cultures, not one, and therefore will develop a different mentality than of your ethnic background. You probably will disagree, but this is my honest opinion and my experiences.

  34. I came across this and other sites speaking of the similiar topic..here’s what I see is pointing to due to the arrogancy and thrashing of ppl who can’t speak the language of their origin…

    So let me get this straight…

    If one doesn’t speak a specific language of their origin..they are horrible people?
    They know nothing of their ancestors or culture..? Don’t have a bond with other people of that country..and bring nothing like shame? (According to comments I read)

    Funny because I can’t speak Portugese for my life and never felt guilt or anything amongst it..and also I don’t feel comfortable speaking it..however I feel very connected to it in some form or another to my roots and I’m very familiar with it. My grandparents can only speak Portugese, and even though we can’t speak each other’s language, we are like attached to the hips as we can come up with ways to get a point across, especially since I can understand what they are saying..just can’t speak it, and can get translators like my parents. My own grandmother told me in Portugese last time I visited that she felt closer to me than any of my portugese speaking cousins! Maybe b/c I help her often and help care for her and be there for her when she needs something. However the love we have for each other is very evident thus creating a special bond. I read things similiar to this on other websites and ppl just thrashed on those who can’t speak the “mother tongue” saying parents should be blamed, are horrible..blah blah.. So my theory is this…no matter how much one knows of culture or how close they are to ppl whose langauge they can’t speak..they are bad people and know nada, and their parents failed at parenting for not teaching them to speak a language…ppl seem to be awed at my character and think I’m good person..and I felt my parents did a damn well job raising me and my sister because of how much respect we give to the outside world..oh wait..we don’t speak our parents’ language…so it’s all a myth..*shake head*.

  35. I was actually thinking of this the other day. My sons can’t speak Spanish to save their lives even though my husband and I speak Spanish to them ONLY and especially they had to take Spanish in school for school requirements. I mean, you should understand the implications and impact in living in a different country besides your own and the kind of influences your kids will be dealing with with the outside world. They’re being more immersed in English than in Spanish. If the entire society was speaking Spanish instead, they surely be speaking Spanish without any problems. It’s so hard to bring up kids in solely one culture and tradition in a different enviroment where it’s multicultural because those outside factors will always be a stronger influence than what we parents can provide them, and I feel that we cannot have too many expectations and just accept and embrace what we DO have, and not at things that we DON’T have. I can say the best we can do is to influence them without any harm or harshness because it at times do get them interested and such without any discomfort. In the meantime, my kids are Spanish regardless and I’ve come to realize that langauge soley is not what determines your identity. I’m very greatful that they can at least understand some Spanish and are not foreign to it even though they can’t speak it. I also find that relationships don’t have to break due to language barrier. You can make it work. My parents’ nor my husband’s parents don’t know English, however like the pp, my sons appear to be very close to them and bond really well with them, even though they can’t communicate, and my husband and I convey regards of love b/w them both. So relationships don’t have to be broken due to language barriers IMO. Also seen many examples of this personally as well. It used to bother me that they never spoke Spanish but after giving some though it no longer does because they know their history, origin and ancestors pretty well and seem to enjoy the culture as well. So I believe that if one does not speak Spanish does not make them any less Hispanic. Along with their hispanicness, they tend to be a bit more multicultural. I’m sure Alberto that you did not nothing wrong and you are not at fault..no parent is at fault if their kid does not speak the tongue of origin. I admit it would be fabulous if we can get our kids to read, write and speak fluent Spanish, but still our kids are fabulous if they don’t have any these aspects and still show they have Hispanic pride. My sons seem to be proud to be Hispanic and have shown it before, although they cannot speak the language.

  36. I was wondering whether the opposite is in effect. I don’t have any ancestors from hispanophone countries (as far as I know) but I speak Spanish fluently (and with a thick Castillian accent, which gets me weird looks in Mexican town.)

    Does speaking Spanish fluently and identifying with the culture and literature of the Hispanic world make one Hispanic, or is that an honor reserved only for those with origin in Spain, Latin America, or Equatorial Guinea?

  37. Most Hispanics forget that English speaking Hispanics been in this country since
    1500’s. Decent from Spain and Portugal. Spain and Portugal had townships in the Carolinas and Georgia first before moving out to the mid-south west. most have for-gotten their family heritage.
    Thru DNA testing some are finding out their Hispanic background. These Hispanic
    lived here for 5 or 6 generations . Classified as Blacks (African Americans) Native Americans and Whites.
    Most are mixed with Native Americans, African, Caucasian and Asian. Also most do not
    carry a Hispanic surname, is was changed or lost during the years. This part of history
    was never taught in school. I am “Mestizo” from New York

  38. Think of it this way, at least your sons have some familiarity with the Spanish language and are familiar with Spanish culture. It’s better than knowing nothing at all because there is a Chinese child I ran into who has no knowledge of Chinese culture or tradition at all..doesn’t even know what Chinese New Year is! Now that’s sad, but for your sons, I would not stress on them on the language, they may feel connected to Spanish culture through other ways and so therefore they are fine. I was like that with my daughter and have tried to get her fluent in Spanish, but she’s one who hates learning any language so will refuse to even speak (though she understands Spanish and French fine), however though she won’t speak, she’s really into the customs and culture and you can tell she does have some kind of attachment to it…language is not the only method to bring that closeness I learned. And as for her grandparents who speak Spanish only, she still shows she loves them and is close to them as she sends cards to them and gifts and tells her cousins there to send them her lovely messages..showing her love, I was like you, but now I won’t stress too much on it.

  39. Latino Muslims and the Moors
    The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of the northernmost Mediterranean coast of North Africa, who invaded Hispania (modern-day Spain and Portugal) in the 8th century forming what became known as Al-Andalus. They were expelled by reconquering Catholics of the Peninsula in the 15th century through a process called Reconquista, after eight centuries of war.
    Though Spain is and was a Christian area before the Islamic invasion, some Latino Muslims argue that the heritage of the Spanish Moors renders their affiliation with Islam a reversion as much as a conversion as some Moors and Moriscos (Christian converted Moors) from Hispania emigrated to the Americas, though the majority were expelled to North Africa.[3] Although according to the American Journal Of Human Genetics, the Moors played a small role in the development of the genes of the Spanish and groups of Spanish descent, also, almost 20% of Spaniards are descendents of the Sephardic Jewish community[4] Furthermore, a mere 10% of Spanish dna can be traced to North Africans, though this does not necessarily derive from the Arabs, as most Berbers whom the Moors descend from (they also descend to a lesser extent from Arabs), in the past practiced Judaism, the adoption of Islam amongst the Berbers is often associated with the defeat of the Jewish Queen Kahina, of the Berbers, and later conquering of her empire. In fact many Moors who were of Berber descent recounted the story of Queen Kahina, to Moors of Arab descent, when they were discriminated by Moors of Arab descent in Andalusia.
    Reasons for conversion
    In addition to the historical relationship to Spain, Latino Muslims also state other reasons for their conversion to Islam. Latino Muslims also argue that Islamic values harmonize with the traditional values of Latino culture. Converts may, for example, cite such similarities as respect for social solidarity, the family, the importance of religion, and education. [1]
    For many Latinos, this aspect of Islam is effective in bridging this void, especially in Latino communities in the US. (Compare the similar role of Pentecostalism in Latino communities.) According to Chris L. Jenkins of the Washington Post, the Catholic Church estimates that up to 100,000 Hispanics or Latinos are abandoning the faith every year.[2]
    The Catholic Church’s past involvement in the Spanish and Portuguese colonization of Latino America has also stained the religion. Dr. Fathi Osman, resident scholar at the Omar Foundation, says “in their own countries Hispanics did not see the Church supporting the rights of the poor. Rather it sided with the rich and the influential.” This, he argues, has contributed to the popularity of Islam within Latinos.[3]
    Many Latino Muslims live in various cities within the United States, their numbers estimated to be from between 70,000 and 200,000.[5] The Latino Muslim phenomenon has had a growing presence in states like New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Florida. Since the United States Census Bureau does not provide statistics on religion, statistics are scarce and wide ranging. Some estimates say there are between 15,000 to 50,000 Hispanic Muslims in the United States.[6] According to the Islamic Society of North America there are 40,000 Hispanic Muslims in the United States.[7] The majority of Hispanic converts to Islam are women.[8] Many Hispanic and Latino Muslims also include people with Middle Eastern descent from Latin America.
    Persistent anecdotal evidence suggests that Latino Muslim converts face discrimination from their own families, [4] and sometimes from the wider US society.
    Many Latino Muslim organizations have been developed. Various Latino Muslim organizations exist including the Latino American Dawah Organization and Alianza Islámica. The Alianza Islámica is the oldest Latino Muslim organization in the United States. It was founded in 1975 by a group of Puerto Rican Islamic converts. Other Latino Muslim organizations include the Los Angeles Latino Muslim Association (LALMA), Latino Muslims of Chicago, the Latino Muslim Association of the San Fernando Valley (LMASFV), Alameda Islamica: Latino Muslims of the Bay Area, PIEDAD, and the Atlanta Latino Muslim Association (ALMA).
    See also

    Hispanic and Latino Americans portal

    Islam portal
    ▪ Islam in the United States
    ▪ Islam in Mexico
    ▪ Islam in Spain
    ▪ Al-Andalus
    ▪ Black Muslims
    Note: Hispanics are growing in numbers converting back to Islam like their
    Spanish, North African Moors and Portugal heritage

  40. The language issue is only part of the dis-connect. What about heritage and history. Most of us Hispanics do not have a clue about their real culture and history. It was completely erase from the text books in America. I hope this website will encompass all of Latino Heritage.

  41. This is an excellent topic involving language and bicultural issues. The language issue is particularly more concerning and obvious to those generations with experiences as foreign born immigrants and the those of American citizens born of immigrants. The most notable piece in your entry, “My being bilingual is the natural consequence of being born bicultural and balancing two languages since day one.” For prior generations of latin immigrants, maintaining your cultural roots, customs, identity and language was not negotiable. To give comparative examples for contrast, we can also look to the Jews, a religious and cultural subset, or even Greeks, to see how well they have preserved their communities with language and religious education programs being a quasi requirement for their families.

    For most of us with Cuban parents or grandparents who arrived in the U.S. during the wave of Freedom Flights in the 60s, speaking Spanish was not an option, it was a requirement. Being the eldest daughter of four female children, ranging from ages 34 to 16, I can relate that the language requirement becomes more loosely enforced with the passing years. However, my parents are both only 52 years old, if they were older, that parameter alone would change alot. The more rooted individuals become to their residing country and identity as a citizen thereof, the more lax and hybrid-like they become in their own cultural identities. However, isn’t that natural to the process of assimilation? Maybe having formal higher education in the U.S. also changes outcomes as well?

    Regarding your section on “The Disappointment”… there is worthy subject matter and material there for a multi-part PBS Special on this topic. Seriously. One of my grandmothers was a teacher and Spanish professor both in Cuba and later here in the U.S. until she retired a few years ago. Now, two of her five grandchildren speak remedial Spanish, and two of her three great-grandchildren do not speak Spanish at all.

    I would love to share further, but I realize this is YOUR blog. Congratulations and thank you for sharing!

    -Michelle Martinez Reyes

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for contributing your experience. The purpose of this blog is learning through sharing. I encourage you to expand on your thoughts regarding “The Disappointment.”

      We have have both similiarities in our backgrounds (Cuban parents) as well as differences (your parents are much younger than mine). It is interesting to observe where are viewpoint are shaped to some extent based on those very similarities and differences.

      Again, thank you for stopping by. Born Bicultural USA looks fwd to your continued contribution to this conversation.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  42. I think this is a very interesting thread, and it connects very directly to my life! My father was born in the Dominican Republic and came to America only knowing Spanish. He eventually learned English and graduated college.. for most of my life I did not even know his first language was Spanish.. I didn’t even know I was Hispanic until I was around eight or nine years old. When I was little my father never ever spoke to me in Spanish.. my mother (who is Puerto Rican) spoke to me in Spanish, but never fully Spanish. As a result, my Spanish is really bad now and I struggle to learn it. I feel really bad because I feel like knowing Spanish is part of my identity of being hispanic and being able to communicate with the parts of my family who can’t speak English (my grandparents, cousins, etc). Moreover, I feel like I don’t even know that much about my own culture, which gets me really sad. The worst part about it that makes me feel really shameful is that I won’t be able to teach my own kids how to speak Spanish because I can’t speak it fluently. I would take it in school but I am currently taking Japanese (which I believe is getting better than my Spanish).. I feel really Americanized because I donn’t really know anything about my culture, and I am too embaressed to learn about it. I’m not embaressed by the fact that I’m Latina; I’m embaressed at the fact that I’m Latina and I don’t know anything about my culture in the first place. I jsut wanted to share my opinion on the receiving end of the stick, and how some of the children of Spanish speaking parents are affected by not being spoken to in Spanish..

    1. Christina,

      Thanks for your contribution to this conversation. I identify with your struggle, as many of us on this blog do. My perspective is that it’s never too late to connect with cultures, particularly your own. Your story is your story. No need to be embarrassed by it, in my opinion. Like anything in life, if you don’t like something, change it. I don’t suggest it’s easy, but nothing worth much rarely is.

      Thanks again, Christina. I look forward to your future contributions to Born Bicultural USA.

      Best regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  43. Apparently there is a generational difference as well, My mother (born in Bronx) and father ( San Juan) , tell me how they faced hardships coming up from a poor family in inner city, they were the first to learn English, first to go to college, and racial tension was a factor for them while doing so. I think they wanted me to be more fluent in English then they were so I wouldn’t have to face this . Turns out not learning spanish was losing an opportunity. Unfortunately this caused me to feel guilt while growing up. I didn’t quite fit in with other latinos and did not feel like I truly was Puerto Rican . For me I took the matter in my own hands, I started learning guitar and Puerto Rican music from a young age, If I did not know the language passed down I certainly learned the culture through our music and am a fluent guitarist today. I have not had to deal with this in a while until now, my Gparents are getting to that age and while they can speak broken english, its out the window because they are too old. This time is precious and I feel like I am losing out . At the same time the latino’s I didn’t fit in with because I was not ” in touch with my culture” were listening to rap and I was nailing down ramito licks on the guitar. So who is more in touch ? Thx for the article there are so many sides to this it makes my head hurt.

  44. Though I am not an adult, parent, or colleague (lets just say I’m very mature for my age) I feel i can relate to many of the issues being presented. This reply is from a younger person’s perspective. Growing up, my parents had no doubt that my sisters and i would learn Spanish along the way for they are both bilingual. My sister had problems in kindergarten. She spoke Spanish in a class of English speaking teachers and students. My parents feared that i would grow up having an accent so they stopped speaking Spanish to me altogether that is until i became fluent in English. By then i was used to my parents speaking Spanish to me and responding back in English which greatly hindered my Spanish skills. My sisters and I acquired only English speaking friends simply because English was the main language at our schools. At the time, not being fluent didn’t concern me for I was having a great childhood until i reached a certain age and my parents finally noticed my inability to understand or respond to my relative’s quick and harsh Spanish. I was insecure to practice Spanish because of my accent. I confessed that I understood it better then i spoke it, but they didn’t’ let me go that easily. They blamed me for not caring enough or trying my hardest to learn. It was true. Why would I need to learn Spanish when i lived in a country where English was the main language? They called me out about my feeble attempts; pathetic. Secretly, I was ashamed at the time for being a Mexican-American and not being able to speak my own language fluently. For my parents and for myself I took Spanish electives all the way up to Spanish AP. I forced myself to listen intently to Spanish conversations, but most of it was just gibberish to me.By then I realized becoming fluent in a language wouldn’t take a couple years. I’d like to say that I put all insecurities and doubts behind me, but that isn’t true. To this day, I am not fluent or even proficient in Spanish. Though I don’t blame my parents anymore for not speaking Spanish to me when I was little, I blame myself for not putting in the effort to give it my all. I’m many things when it comes to Spanish, insecure, unsure, incomprehensible, scared, determined, angry, but the one thing i will never let myself become is pathetic.

  45. I’m a 21 year-old university student from California. I am fluent in English and Spanish.My parents spoke to me in Spanish and they refused to speak to me in English because “I would eventually learn English in school”. But even so they still had me watch television shows in English and signed me up in a good preschool to practice speaking English. My parents told me and my sister that knowing two languages is not shameful and we should be happy that we have a chance to be bilingual.
    I never had trouble assimilating, I watched T.V. in both languages, I do not have any sort of accent, and I grew up with Mexican culture and morals. However, I would like to point out that I don’t see myself as Latino or Hispanic. I am Mexican-American. I am an American citizen with Mexican Heritage. I emphasize this because I believe the words “Latino” and “Hispanic” have stigmas and stereotypes attached to them. But this is a topic for another day.
    Anyways, my father speaks broken English and my mother understands it.They have confessed to me that they never bothered to learn proper English because they were embarrassed that fluent English-speakers would laugh and mock them. I find it a little offensive that people are so mean about those who do not know English and live in the U.S. I understand that “this is America and English is the primary language”, but i think we all have to be a little more understanding.
    I personally know a few people who are trilingual! They speak Finnish (their native language), English and Spanish. They are currently learning Chinese. What I’m trying to say is that just because we live in the U.S. does not mean we have to only speak English. We should educate our future children about languages and tell them that it’s okay to speak a language that is not English.
    Currently, I’m slowly starting to forget proper Spanish due to school, but I have taken the initiative to relearn. I’m proud that I am bilingual!
    When and If i have children, I will teach them both English and Spanish simultaneously.

  46. Well I can say this,

    I personally feel that language is not the only item that connects you to your culture. I pretty much agree with Igrail Morales that there’s more to than just language. With some of the replies I read, I was pretty much appalled at some responses, saying they regret because they don’t speak fluent Spanish or cannot speak at all. Even if you can speak broken or just simple Spanish, it’s still good! At least you have something. Anyone CAN achieve anything at any age if they put their mind to it! I am one. My parents spoke Spanish to my brothers and I until we reached school age. After that, they started speaking English to us because they were afraid that we would not survive school with the lack of English language. I completely understand, and they are not at fault for it. However even though that happened, we still were connected to our cultural ties through food, music, movies..etc. When I was around 16 I gained a huge desire to learn Spanish, and took Spanish in high school and throughout college. I majored in Spanish as well and spent some time in Spain and by three years time, I was speaking like a native. Heck people are now shocked to find out I was raised in a western society and still speak almost perfect Spanish. My two brothers in their twenties have a desire to learn as well and are learning, and they are doing pretty well. So I will say shame on those who say they regret not being able to speak it at all and blame their parents for it. If you want to learn, there are plenty of opportunities out there now. YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE INITIATIVE!! Don’t sit on your bum and mope about it! Cannot depend on your parents for every little thing! Your parents are not the only resource to help you. Yes it’s easier when younger, but not impossible to learn when older or as an adult as well. Many adults nowadays are learning languages and they are doing proficiently well. So it’s not impossible!

    Anyway, as for being connected to cultural roots, even the littlest things will teach a lot. There are so many things there is besides language. Food, learning about history, music, dance, films, and celebrating holidays are all good ways to connect to your culture. From what I witnessed, doing at least one of them will teach you a a lot, in fact, more than you think. And if you do more than one, it’ll expand your knowledge even more.

    The answer to the question of this thread: “If your kids don’t speak Spanish, are they really Hispanic” is a big debate and has many opinions on it. However it is really up to the individual to decide if s/he is Hispanic or not by knowledge and beliefs. But again, language is NOT the sole factor that do not determine that. If one does not speak Spanish, it does not automatically discard them from being Hispanic as they may obtain knowledge about their ancestors through other aspects.

    This is my opinion and perspective, and others are welcomed to agree or disagree on it.

  47. Simply wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity to your post is simply cool and that i could assume you’re a professional in this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grasp your feed to keep updated with imminent post. Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work.

  48. I’m late to the party, but I’m going to chime in just the same because it’s something that’s troubled me over the years, particularly in reference to not be able to communicate as well as I’d like with my grandfather (who I’ve always referred to as “Abuelito”).

    For a little background info, my mother and her family are from Cuba (Matanzas to be exact), while my father’s family are basically Southern white-folk from North Carolina. When I was very young, my parents moved away from everyone, to southwestern Louisiana (another culturally diverse area, to be sure), so my mother no longer really had anyone to speak Spanish with. My father only spoke English, so it wasn’t spoken much in the home. I picked up some things, and can understand a great deal of spoken Spanish (particularly if a Cuban is speaking it, oddly enough), but never really had the practice or exposure to feel confident in my command of the language.

    So am I Hispanic? Am I Latino? Are my brothers and cousins? They’re in the same boat. By the sentiments of some others that I’ve come across, I’m not. I’m a fake. Of course, growing up in the South with a Cuban mother, many others insist that I’m not white either. So what am I? My Latino friends seem to think I qualify (native-speaking Venezuelans, Cubans and Mexicans). Do I see myself as a Latino (the term I prefer). Am I “Hispanic?”

    To be absolutely honest, I haven’t really had to ask myself that for a good long time. I am Latino. The way my mother brought me up, the love for the culture, the food, the code of honor handed down to me from my grandfather, something that can be seen, not only in him, but in my uncle…a quiet strength, a love for family, dedication and faithfulness, and yes, a fierceness that is all-too-apparent when it comes to protecting those you love (‘machismo’ gets a bad rap in US culture). If I’m half the man my grandfather is, then I’ll be doing well.

    1. karyyk,

      Thanks for your contribution to this perpetually interesting topic (it’s never too late to chime in). Your story is a bit unusual, in that you’re half-Cuban from the other LA (Louisiana), and not the unusual in that you’re interested in trying to figure this out (Latino Legitimacy). I reacted acutely when you wrote, “I’m a fake.” In my opinion, you are what you say you are, not what others label you.

      Again, thanks for your contribution to this ongoing discussion. Please visit Born Bicultural USA, take a look at the other disuccsions and chime in. If your contribution here is any indication, Born Bicultural USA will only grow more interesting with input from you.

      All the best,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  49. I am living in U.S since 2008. i am from colombia and english is not my first language. As a foreigner I was surprised how the people understand race and ethnicity in U.S . Here is really important to classify people and to be include in a particular group. The government here created a category called hispanic to include people of very different backgrounds. there are hispanic of all races (Caucasian “white”, negroid(Afro-American) and mongoloid (asian). U.S federal census make it clear. People has to mark the box for hispanic and also the box for race ( white or Caucasian, mongoloid “asian” and negroid)

    But what is hispanic for the federal government? any person with descendent from A latinoamerican country or born in there there. this include almost 400 million people of south america plus people from center america and people of mexico plus american born descendants of any country. From a governmental point of view this is valid and practical. However is very misleading because people start thinking that hispanic is first a race and second an unitary cultural group . For me it result impossible to consider this categories really valid when it has to be identity is determined.

    In colombia regions are really different. Any person raised there is colombian and the background is not very important for the government in terms of classifications. A big pecentage of the population are african descendent(negroid), others europeans(spain,italy or germany) descendent (Caucasian), middle easter (Caucasian), few are pure natives and around the 50% is a mix of everything. However,culturally a colombian is the person born and raised there or only raised there since early age. The same applies to all latin americans countries. Latin america was also a big destiny of immigrants. How to include people born and raised in different countries in a group denominated hispanic.


  50. First of all, I want to congratulate anyone here, (and it seems like there are alot of you) who are bilingual. I have been trying to learn Spanish for 2 years now and cannot seem to get to first base I have a rather unique situation. Two years ago, I found my biological family after 48 years following a medical issue. I discovered that I am Spanish and Italian. I have 4 siblings from Mexico CIty and my father is a doctor who still lives and practices in Mexico City. Well, naturally, I wanted to learn Spanish, especially now that my father has begun to put pressure on me to learn Spanish. Note that I do not know any other language other than English. The problem is that I cannot seem to learn the Spanish language. I hired a tutor, ordered tapes and read books with no results. I listened to CNN in Spanish in my car. I asked one of my new-found sisters from Mexico to teach me Spanish. She half-heartedly wrote some verbs for me to conjugate on a piece of paper and had me bring one of my books to the kitchen and then she took a pencil and circled the table of contents and told me to “go read the first 5 chapters.” I might add that this sister, who claims to be a Spanish translator and has taught several people Spanish successfully, criticized the tutor I was bringing over, and also, this sister never followed up with me on the Spanish lessons. She just did not seem to care about my wish to learn Spanish. With all of this negative stuff going on with Spanish, I just gave up the hope of ever learning another language. I have a masters degree, I might add, so it is not a question of being stupid. What is it with these people who claim to know another language but hesitate to help people other than their own children learn the language? Is it THAT hard to teach someone Spanish? Everyone I know who speaks Spanish and hears me say this just shrugs and blows me off. What should I do?

    1. I speak a little of various languages, but the international language is English and it will be, now and the future. We are all in a constant state of change.
      I still like my Salsa, and my descents are Moroccan/Berber and Egyptian/Berber. The Berbers change there language from Tamazight to Arabic, but still Berbers who speak Arabic/English.

    2. Charles,

      Hang in there. Negative situations can be experienced anywhere, anytime by anyone. Outlast the negativity and remain committed to learn. If you do, I trust you’ll be successful.

      Kind regards,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  51. Bonjour Alberto!
    Thank you for being honest about your difficult language journey as a parent. I am myself the mother of (2) bilingual boys…but had I not moved back to the USA after their 6 years in France, my kids English would have been catastrophic. Their American dad worked long hours in France, and the kids did not get immersed enough in English.
    I have met a lot of dads who complain about the same problem as yours: not having had enough spare time to interact in their native tongue with their child…
    And few of us can “move” to the country of the language studied!
    What is important, as you explain, is to keep those special celebrations, dishes, etc…Your children might become avid learners once they think about becoming a parent. And you will be there to guide them.

    Au revoir,
    Isabelle KILLIAN
    TADA Language

    1. Isabelle,

      The universality of this topic doesn’t seize to amaze me. We are mostly consumed by our individual realities and don’t often broaden our view to account for perspectives outside our circles. I’m thankful that you took the time to share your experience with us and along the way taught us that the desire to connect with our respective culture and enjoying clarity of identity spans time and distance. Thanks again. Your thoughts are always welcomed here.

      Au revoir, Isabelle


      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  52. Very interesting,

    I read from Charles about his negative experiences with Spanish and would like to point not it’s not good to have that as it can (and had in my experiences) strongly discourage people from learning a langauge that they won’t learn and refuse. Also forcing, critizing and ostracizing people and making the language scenario can make things go the opposite direction. I’ve seen one family do that with their kids and it took turn for the worst that not only did they refuse to learn the language, but would not engage in the culture. I’m glad that Charles is still motivated and I’ll wish him luck that he will succeed. I would love to help him and feel good about being Hispanic and speak Spanish, not someone who is “worthless”. There’s a website called studyspanish.com that’ll help, and also live mocha is good where you can actually interact with native speakers.

    It’s a gift to give your kids multiple languages, and we should expose and encourage them to take part of our cultures THE RIGHT WAY. I never forced my daughters to speak Spanish, but always spoken to them in both Spanish and English. They seemed hesitant and really shy when younger to speak, though they could understand. But as they grew older and after a study abroad program that they both chose, they got into speaking Spanish. Now one of my daughters in near fluent, and my other daughter is only intermediate but still can speak (with errors of course). I feel it’s important for kids to feel comfortable first which leads to an easier transition. However, I’ve seen many in our Hispanic community who seem to be a far too judgemental on this issue and it does cause problems

    As for the question “Are you still Hispanic if you don’t speak the language”..I’m a native speaker of Spanish, and there are many youngsters in my circle of friends who don’t speak a lick of Spanish..are they still Hispanic..YES. One’s language skills does not determine if you’re a true Hispanic or an outcast. As long as they know their heritage and are proud..it’s all that matters.

    I’m not bothered that my daughters don’t speak perfect Spanish.But they are learning and will always learn Spanish as long as they live. I’m glad and feel I have acheived that they are proud of who they are and where they come from, regardless if they speak the language.

    The theme here is don’t judge, live and let live, and help each other out rather than tearing people apart which in this case applys to learning Spanish. There are many opportunities to learn any language now and let’s help and encourage rather than being negative 🙂


    1. Hi Paola-I just received your reply to my message on my email updates and I truly want to thank you for the kind words! You are so right-we all need to help each other! I will check out studyspanish.com-thanks for the recommendation. I will keep trying to learn Spanish; I am 51 years old now so I might have to try a little harder than someone who is a teenager, jajajaja…just like you said in your message, for your daughters, learning another language is a lifetime venture, so I know there are no deadlines to meet; just to enjoy the flow of culture is reward enough for me. As for my sister, well, she still has not mentioned our Spanish lessons and I think it is funny that she is trying to get a position as a translator in the government…to that I say, “Good Luck”…as for me, I will continue to try to be motivated and learn Spanish on my own terms and in my own timeline. Thanks again Paola!

  53. I’m very surprised that some people here think language is only minor..it’s MAJOR!!! And honestly I’m going to play devil’s advocate and say that if people don’t speak Spanish, they are not hispanic, they are whitewashed coconuts lol. And I blame the parents who engage themselves in other cultures. Because when you go globally and interact with others, a common mind forms and things change in every culture. For our culture we don’t want it.

    Also Alberto it’s very important culturally that they don’t lose all the native traditions and cultures we hispanics have. And sadly, we have to forbid them from engaging in other cultures and make friendships with non-hispanics to keep it intact.At least I do. I would never allow my kids to marry non-hispanics as in my opinion it’s disrespectful and a shame to our Spanish culture..just like not speaking Spanish or eating the food all the time. That’s why I forbid them from making friends and only tell them to stick with Hispanics. We moved back to South America, and honestly I do not want them to go outside the country anymore just in case of unwanted influences or changes in our culture.

    I know it’s harsh, but it’s true. You are not Hispanic if you don’t follow fully what real Hispanics do. If you want your kids to be real Hispanics, teach them Spanish now and don’t allow any influences other than the Spanish one get to them. This also explains why I don’t like any of this independence, traveling abroad (unless it’s another spanish speaking country) or else.

    I may be too conservative and perhaps racist (I’ll admit as I don’t like anyone besides my native Spanish, and I want my kids to follow the same), but these are my perceptions. Sorry if it offends, but we just cannot allow those things for the sake of our langauge and culture!

    1. A. Morales,

      I appreciate your…candor. You are an admitted “perhaps racist.” If I’ve interpreted your post correctly, your views are unapologetically narrow and consistent with those perspectives promoted among our society’s most bigoted segments. I thank you for reminding us that there will always be voices like yours to account for in the important discussion of who we are and who we wish to be. According to your post, you’ve returned to South America. I hope you find what you’re looking for there.


      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

    2. Wow A. Morales! While you are most certainly entitled to your views and opinions, I must say I’m glad that most of the people I’ve encountered don’t feel the same way. I must disagree that non-Spanish speakers are “white-washed coconuts.” Apparently you don’t know the pain of not being able to fluently speak you culture’s language and wishing with all your heart that you could. Your views don’t take into account those who didn’t learn Spanish as a child, but made the effort to become fluent later on because of a love for the culture. I find no reason for native Spanish speakers to look down on non-native speakers any more than for native English speakers to look down on non-native English speakers. The only reason any person, no matter who you are, even has a native language to begin with is because somebody taught them, not because of any inherent special qualities that makes them superior to others.

  54. A. Morales you can not white-washed your DNA. A person is still Hispanic
    because the DNA can not change even if you wanted to. In the future we all will be judge by our DNA not what language you speak. We all can learn a language, So why not do an DNA test and let us know what you really are.
    BTW I am of Spanish/Portuguese/Puerto Rican descent by DNA. I know what I am.
    Do you know what you are?

  55. A. Morales: I read your comments and I respect your opinion on the subject- when people say they are playing “devil’s advocate” sometimes they are really saying they feel the opposite way but just want to light a fire under the discussion table. You are entitled to your opinion. Unfortunately, life’s circumstances sometimes prevent one from culling everything from a culture that they normally might have if things had been different. In my case, I recently found out that my biological father, who is a doctor of Spainish/Mexican descent, was living in the US completing his residency. Immediately after my birth, I was given up for adoption and literally dumped at the doorstep of a Catholic orphanage in West Virginia. This was done because my parents were not married and it was shameful to have a child out of wedlock. I was then adopted by a very loving family who did not know my background, and raised in a totally non-Spanish-speaking environment. This is why I say that sometimes it really is beyond someone’s control as to what language they learn. For 50 years, I did not know my roots until a recent illness forced, (or shall I say prompted) me to find my biological family. The moral of the story is that we all need to consider ALL factors in life, (not that we owe anyone an explanation) before judging someone or consciously separating ourselves from people because of culture or language- we will never learn anything that way.

  56. If you think about it. The only reason why my children are fluent in Spanish, who can even read and write exceptionally is because I forbid them and I will continue to do so. If you only give your kids access to Spanish only, you will have no problems or regrets about them speaking Spanish and keeping the cultural ties. It sounds like I am oppressing my children to only four walls, and you know it’s a good thing. I really don’t give about other cultures and people and I don’t believe in everyone is equal or should have the same respect. So yes my kids won’t probably learn how to respect others outside our community and that’s totally fine. You allow your kids to interact with non-Spanish, some of the things go out the window. This is why I don’t like open-mindedness. I am aware cultures and the generations are changing rapidly, and a lot of people go with the flow and learn to accept it. Not me. Here in SA you can see it and I’m kind of disgusted by it. Some of them are shaming our culture to the extreme with their introducing new ideas and offering changes for the “better”. I think personally it’s pathetic and I have no issues telling that off to the parents. Also I know I will probably or most likely get into issues with my kids when older (and probably it will strain our relationships a bit) about certain things, but I’m going to do my best not to let them off the hook and try to keep them extremely conservative. They’re going to grow up the way I and previous generations grew up. Yes the “olden style” way. Never am I going to let them grow up the way kids of today’s generation are.

  57. Also forgot to mention. I don’t think it matters about how you learn Spanish. And it’s not only learning the language, but if you don’t confine to other things, you’re still not Hispanic. I read and understand others’ perspectives like Charles, and honestly it doesn’t really change my perceptions. I see Spanish marrying outsiders and guess what? I would not consider them Hispanic. anymore.

    Also to the poster who mentioned about being Hispanic by blood. That’s true, but that does not mean you’re Hispanic culturally. I know it sounds wrong, but if you want to be a full Hispanic, you have to act like one. Otherwise you are not one at all.

  58. Well, technically A. Morales, if you go by your own advice, YOU are not truly Hispanic once you begin typing and communicating with us on this blog in English…seems you are going outside the confines of SA…Just saying…

    1. I was thinking along the same lines Charles.

      Also, I can’t help but wonder if those posts are being done by an internet troll. It just seems too extreme and attention getting.

  59. I read the comment from A. Morales and am happy to say that now I know better, I won’t be raising my children the way he is. I had to laugh and I really hope it is a troll.

    If I were to choose between culture vs. having dignity towards others, definitely dignity towards others. My kids are happy to be of the Hispanic community and I hope they remain that way and always learn and appreciate our Spanish culture, but I WILL NOT tolerate my kids disrespecting others just b/c they are different from the Spanish, have a different skin color..etc. No! I would rather have my children speak broken Spanish or be completely westernized as opposed to showing superiority and ill judgement among other people. We are all human and are no more or less than one other! And on top of that, what reputation would it give to other people if all Hispanics were like that? I’m sure it wouldn’t be pleasant!

    My older daughter has a black boyfriend, but I’m not going to forbid her because because he’s not Spanish. In fact we know each other’s families well and my daughter’s bf is more like a son to me than just some guy. He is very smart and intelligent, is a biomedical engineer and is very responsible..kind of person any MIL would want.

    I respect his opinion and he can wish what he wants, but I hope I can say is that I do not appreciate bigots at all as he was not the only one, but in the Hispanic in my area, there a few who think in similar lines. I experienced alot and so I won’t be following that path.

    Also A. Morales, if you want to oppress your kids from the world to keep them Hispanic, it’s fine, but don’t guarantee it in the future..and yes I’m sure you very much narrowness will break ties with your children if you will not let them explore and learn for themselves, and have them grow up and expand their knowledge where they will grow efficiently and be nutured to where they will be responsible citizens who will help make a difference in the world. That said, language is minor to me, though both my daughters can speak, but not fluently..and even though they speak English most of the time, they are still Hispanic as they have so much respect for it, regardless what language they speak, who they marry..etc. Those are just secondary to what I really want them to be.

  60. You should speak to your two year old only in Spanish. I have a friend from Spain who is doing this with his baby girl and she speaks to him in Spanish and to her mother (who does not speak Spanish) in English. Young children are like sponges the learn so quickly and don’t question it. I was born in Spain and only spoke Spanish when we moved back to the United States. My parents did not speak Spanish to me growing up and I lost my ability to speak it. I understand it, but I don’t feel comfortable speaking it to native speakers. Looking back I wish my parents had kept up my Spanish when I was young. I would love to be bilingual – sure I can take Spanish classes and learn to speak it again, but it is not the same as being a native speaker. I say do it now while your children are young and curious. 🙂

  61. Hi,

    I came here because I AM having this problem. I want my kids to learn English first and my husband’s family wants my kids to speak Spanish. See, I come from Mexican parents that migrated to the US when I was 15. I had to learn everything in a new language ( I was born in the US but raised in a border town in Mexico since I was 3 years old)

    I learned English by listening to music and having captions on movies so that I can “see” what people were saying. i read books like crazy. Yet, I refused to use the new language in fear of others making fun of me because of my notable accent. I hate it. I hate it not being able to fit in and speak like everybody else so I excluded myself from a lot of activities and sort of lived for years in a world full of shame for my inability to sound “Chicana” or “authentic” I resisted acculturation for a long time until I became a parent myself. When I became a parent everything changed; the level of maturity and understanding of things changed and so it became clear that the thing I resisted the most was now the thing I needed more in order to succeed. I can’t tell you how much I’m still learning. I love both English and Spanish however I decided to no longer watch, listen or read Spanish. I’m still adding words to my vocabulary so I enjoy discovering new words. NOW, THIS IS my problem. I have two sons (4 and 2) I talk to them in English only and my husband talks to them in Spanish. (he is bilingual as well, actually his English is a lot better than his Spanish.) Last weekend his family got together and kept asking me to teach my boys Spanish. They said that it was very important for them to speak Spanish because it was “our native language” and that English would come to them easier because they would learned it at school and they would also get it from watching tv. I was very upset for what I was hearing and told them that they would learn it from us later on in life and that I did not want my kids to fall behind at school. IN MY HEAD, I was thinking well, my kids will know Spanish because that was my primary language, I just don’t want it to be theirs. They live in America and they should learn English first. They will adopt Spanish. Sure is nice for my boys to learn Spanish so that “abuelita and tios” and understand but should they be punish for knowing the language of the place where they live? I could push it more and ask why don’t “they” make an effort and learn English? AGAIN, THIS IS JUST GOING IN MY HEAD In the heat of a moment. I’ve seen many people get weird looks when they have a Hispanic appearance or a Hispanic last name yet they don’t understand Spanish or speak only a little bit and I feel for them and I wouldn’t want to put my kids in that situation.

    And then I read your article, and I understand your point of view and dilemma but I think the ages of your kids were mature enough to ask. Did they care to learn another language? They did know a little bit of the Hispanic culture and did they understand the importance of speaking to languages, like in your case, the importance of being bilingual at your job.
    I have learned a lot from your article and from many of the responses. They gave me insight of what I want for my kids. Is time to sit down with my husband and talk about how we want to raise our kids. Sometimes is hard to listen to other people when they give you unsolicited parenting advice.
    Thank you for being honest.

    1. Hi Daniela,

      Your perspective is complex and candid. Thank you for sharing it with us here. I can detect the tension you carry from your childhood experience and how that’s playing a role in parenting your children. The struggle is real.

      It’s been a while since we initiated this discussion but the issues endure. I don’t propose to have a suggested solution at the tip of my tongue. I trust I’ll contemplate your concerns, explore my own thoughts and if I come up with something of value, I promise to come back to this forum and share it. In the meantime, find consolation knowing you’re not alone. You are clearly trying your best and that’s very commendable.

      Un abrazo,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Biculturual USA

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