• IDRA Newsletter • August 1995

Each of these essays was among the top three winners in the 1994 National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) nationwide writing contest for bilingual students, sponsored by Coca-Cola USA and Apple Computer, Inc.

By Serana Demientieff
Grade 8
Kasigluk, Alaska

Bilingual education is important to me so I can be able to speak in English and Yup’ik. Every child should be taught at least some things about what our ancestors did. Elders of the Yup’ik world worry about losing the Yup’ik language. As for myself, I am very proud of myself because I am a bilingual person.

At our school, in Akula, we have a Yup’ik studies program. The Yup’ik studies program is a program where we can learn or at least remember how to make the things which our ancestors did back then. More and more schools are asking for the curriculum which we are using at our school.

How important do you think it is to keep our language alive? I think it is really important because one we lose it we can not find it ever again. For example, the Eyak language is dying because no one has ever been taught how to read and write in the Eyak way. There is only one elder who knows how to speak and read in the language. If no one has been taught, and that elder dies the Eyak language is gone forever. Would you want that to happen? To keep our language alive we have to teach our future children how to speak in the Yup’ik language and also have to teach them the things we were taught.

It is also important to have the English language too. If we know the English language we can have jobs in the future and be able to speak to non-natives. We also have to know the English language to be able to read things at the store and also in the newspapers and count the money you have to spend.

In the future I plan to teach my children to be bilingual. First, I plan to teach them Yup’ik so they can pass the language onto their children and English so they can be able to communicate with non-natives and also to understand English.

By Huy Nguyen
Grade 5
Orlando, Florida

“A person who speaks two languages is worth two persons,” says my bilingual teacher. That is reason enough to make bilingual education important to me. I have a treasure that many people do not have – two worlds of languages and cultures. I would not be writing this essay if there was not a bilingual education program at my school.

My family and I came to the United Sates over two years ago. We came from a war-torn Vietnam, a very small country with a musical language and a millenary old culture. I am so happy to be in this country. My younger sister and I are the unique members in a family of 10 who can go to school in this land of opportunity. That means I will be able to fulfill my dream of becoming a medical doctor. I was not always this hopeful.

Soon after we were enrolled in high school, my hope began to fade away. People around me, teachers and students, all spoke some strange language. I felt like I was enclosed in a box or in a house without windows. I was surrounded by people; yet, I was isolated because communication was impossible.

Fortunately, I was transferred to another school that had a bilingual teacher to help me. My whole world turned around. Suddenly, everything made sense to me. It took my bilingual teacher 15 minutes to explain to me a lesson in my native language, while it took my English speaking teacher an hour to do the same task!

I began to make significant progress in learning English and other subjects. My house now has windows to another world – the world in which I am now living. I have a sense of importance because now I am the link between my family and the world outside of my home.

A Vietnamese adage says: Cây có côi, nuoc có nguon [Trees have roots; springs have sources]. An uprooted tree will die. My tree was not uprooted; it was transplanted to another fertile soil. I am lucky to have my tree deeply and firmly rooted in my family, my language and culture. The branches of my tree reach out and capture new nutrients to feed my hunger for more knowledge. My life becomes richer because it feeds on two sources: one is the world of English, the other Vietnamese.

As the world shrinks, an interdependence among nations becomes more evident. People need the bilingual and bicultural skills to communicate and to avoid conflict. I strongly believe that bilingual education can facilitate cultural understanding as it teaches languages. For that reason, all schools should offer bilingual education to their students.

I am proud to be able to communicate in more than one language. I am confident that I will be able to fulfill my dream and my responsibilities to my family and to this country – thanks to my family who supports me and to my teachers who guide me.

By María Luisa Mijes
Grade 6
Houston, Texas

In a society where the bright and the not so bright is given the same opportunity, I address myself to you. First of all, I was born in San Antonio, Texas. My parents were both born in Mexico. I am 11 years old now.

Although I came to school knowing only one language, I was able to impact the new world of English with the wealth of my Spanish heritage. My first teachers at home who were my parents sent me to school fully equipped with concrete concepts which I was able to transfer in my bilingual classes.

Bilingual education begun to formulate my new experiences of success in school. There was never a year in which I was not an honor roll student.

It was in kindergarten where I was able to connect my Spanish culture in the Suzuki Violin classes taught to me in school. The music and Spanish language of my ancestors facilitated the rapid progress in the rich multicultural experience. Bilingual education opened a whole new spectrum of light for me. An array of rainbows through music makes me a leader as an ambassador of my culture to the world through television and personal appearances.

I can tell you with great pride that I have sung the songs of my forefathers and serenaded through mariachi music. Presidents, governors, movie stars, and our unforgettable renown Spanish World Comedian. Streams of tears flowed down his face as he heard me sing and play. This experience will forever be imprinted in the profound depths of my soul. My rich heritage leads me through fields of challenging conquests. To be equipped with the wealth of multicultural experiences through music and academic success is an asset. My serenades are a gift for your enjoyment. Your pay is the song of your soul through the simple clapping of your hands. The molding of my life can never be reproduced, sold, nor bought. My authors are unique bilingual teachers, a one of a kind school, my unique parents and home.

This year, bilingual students throughout the country can submit essays on the topic: Why bilingual education is important to me. Essays are grouped into three categories: elementary, grades three through five; middle/jr. high, grades six through eight; and high school, grades nine through 12. The first place winners for each category will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship and an Apple Macintosh color computer. The winners, with their parents and bilingual teachers, will also win a trip to the next annual NABE conference in Orlando, Florida. Each second place winner will receive a $2,500 scholarship, and each third place winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship. The deadline for submission of essays is November 1, 1995. For contest information in English or Spanish call 1-800-GET-COKE or call NABE at 202/898-1829. Essays printed with permission from the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE).

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©1995, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 1995 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]