To the editor:
As a lifelong educator of foreign languages and cultures, I would like to reply to Monica Gonzalez's May 7 letter in which she seems to equate Hispanics retaining their cultural identity with Americans learning to speak Spanish.
First, she states that "we are trying to force Hispanics to abandon their culture." It has been my experience that America continues to embrace the diverse cultures that make up our country. Each year, Kansans seek out the many Czech, German, Mexican and Swedish festivals that celebrate our immigrant diversity. I do not believe today's Americans would wish Hispanics or any other immigrant populations to give up their cultural heritage, nor their native language as in past generations.
I wholeheartedly agree that "Americans should make an effort to become bilingual." (Witness the old joke: "What is the definition of monolingual? An American!") That said, bilingualism is not synonymous with learning Spanish. Young Americans should make their foreign language selection based on their own interests and future career plans. These languages can include Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish or any other languages important on the national and global scene.
Many Americans may indeed choose to study Spanish, but if they do not, how does this undermine Hispanic cultural identity? Whether it be Arabic-speaking immigrants in Europe or Hispanics in the United States, immigrant groups need to take steps to learn the language of their new country, aided by effective English as a Second Language courses in schools. Bilingualism is a two-way street.
Mary Greenwood Johnson,