Did he make the right choice?...

mom2many

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<r>There’s an interesting story going around about a young man named <URL url="</s>Saul Tello, Jr<e></e></URL>. He was valedictorian of his class with a GPA of approximately 4.2 and opted to do his speech in Spanish. For this kid, the decision was simple. He wanted to ensure that the most important people in his life could understand him: his parents.<br/>
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However, there has been some backlash about his choice, not so much within his community, but within the media. In the media, his speech has turned into a debate on immigration, and how unfair it is to give the speech in Spanish; leaving out parents and students who couldn't understand what was being said. <br/>
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I have to ask though, if he had only given the speech in English, would it have not left out the people who do speak Spanish? Possibly the very people who raised this young man? But little did he know that choosing the language of his parents would create such a maelstrom of emotions.<br/>
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I’m sure some might wonder why he didn’t just do it in English and Spanish. He wanted to. He wanted to honor both of his cultures, but the school felt that it would be to time consuming and told him to pick just one language and present it that way. <br/>
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So he did. He honored the people who held him when he was sick. He honored the ones who held the most influential role in his life and he choose to do something no one before him had ever done: give the speech in Spanish. <br/>
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In my opinion, this young man took a risk. As a parent, I would be proud beyond belief. Do we not teach our children to be true to themselves? To stand up and take risks? To stand firm in their beliefs and do the right thing?<br/>
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His speech has been turned into so much more than that, though. It’s sad as a parent to see that instead of this young man's accomplishments being honored, his story is being placed in the forefront of immigration and a “national” language debate.<br/>
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We can debate these topics until we are blue in the face. The school let this young man down. How hard would it have been to allow both languages? An extra 5 minutes at the end would have been a very small amount of time when you consider the average graduation commencement runs from an hour and a half to two hours. Instead of talking about this young man's choices, maybe the focus should be on what the school could have done differently. <br/>
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I don’t know about you, but if I were his parent, I would be beaming with pride.</r>
 

cybele

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I find this really interesting, last year at Speech Night the school Dux (same as Valedictorian) gave the speech half in English, half in Swahili, for the same reason as this boy, so her parents/grandmother could understand as they migrated here from Uganda.

There was no backlash whatsoever, everyone thought it was fantastic.

I agree, I think the school let him down, they should have allowed both languages to be spoken, for the sake of a couple of extra minutes.
 

akmom

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Ah, Cybele I think the reaction was different because there is a fair amount of anti-Hispanic prejudice in the United States. There is a lot of illegal immigration from Mexico into the U.S. and some anger over resources being allocated to these undocumented families. We have birthright citizenship here, so there is a specific controversy over "anchor babies" who are technically citizens because they were born here, but whose parents are not. Some do not speak English, and in some areas, it necessitates schools to offer instruction in Spanish. I think this incident kind of hit all the touchy elements of the immigration debate, since the parents live here but do not speak English, and the graduation ceremony accommodated that.

I don't personally buy into the anti-Hispanic hype... Frankly, the U.S. makes it very difficult to get citizenship without being born here, so for people who want to be here, the illegal route is pretty much the only practical one. Plus, there are plenty of young children who immigrate illegally with their families and grow up here; they can't even apply for citizenship unless they leave first, but they have nowhere to go, because this is their home. And the kinds of jobs and wages they are able to get aren't ones that Americans want anyway, so they're not taking jobs, imo.

But as far as this incident is concerned, I don't think that letting him give the speech in both languages would have averted the controversy. It's the fact that English is OUR country's language and he accommodated an audience that dares to live here and not learn English. To some, it was a slap in the face toward the country that educated him. And I suspect he was trying to make a point anyway... that Hispanics are part of our culture and capable of success. Otherwise he could have just had it interpreted for his parents. I don't see anything wrong with what he did, as long as he didn't usurp the evening with an inordinately long presentation. It's not like the whole ceremony was presented in Spanish!
 
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cybele

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Oh don't worry, we have the good old stereotypical bogans here going "NAH DEM BOAT PEOPLE DEY BAD LETS SHOOT DA BOATS N DEY CAN DROWN"

There is a very sad, awful anti-immigration belief here too. It is actually not uncommon to see stickers on the backs of cars with a picture of Australia on it, with "F*ck off, we're full" written in the middle.
 

singledad

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I think the party who is in the wrong, is the school, for making him choose only one language.

But I understand what you are saying about the immigration issue. We have similar problems here and I can imagine a speech in Shangaan or Swahili having the same effect here - more because of the immigration issue than language as such.

The sad truth is that you will always find others objecting to you using your language, often because they don't have the guts to say that what they really object to, is the fact that you are who you are.

If he was my kid, I'd be very, very proud of him, and very angry at the school for making him chose between respecting his school and respecting his family. That is so unfair!
 

mom2many

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Okay, now a few more facts. Maybe it will change perspectives.

While the USA does not have an official language, California does and that is English.

Does the fact that the town he comes from is made up of 62% Latino/Hispanic's make a difference?

Also, no where did any articles say his parents couldn't understand English, only that they were limited.

I was surprised by a lot of peoples reactions to this. Many seemed to completely miss the point that the young man wanted to honor both languages and was shot down by the school. Instead of thinking like singledad, that the school was the issue, it turned into an immigration debate.
 

Jeremy+3

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If your school is an English language school then all speeches should be presented in English unless the speech is about modern languages.

When any of my children do speeches in school they do them in english as they attend and english school, it doesn't matter that we speak a different language at home.
 

IADad

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First, I agree that the school made the wrong decision. If he was allotted 10 minutes for his speech perhaps they could have given him14 minutes to do 7 in Spanish and 7 in English.

I see the point, that the Valedictorian's speech is only in part for the special people in his life. Another part is to be the spokesperson for the class, to inspire his classmates, to communicate to the community at large the achievements hopes and dreams of the class. So, I agree that his speech failed to do the latter.

But, given the limitation placed by the school that forced him to chose, and the fact that the community at large is 62% hispanic, then I think he made the best choice possible. It's unfortunate that members of the class and community felt left out, but maybe that serves a purpose as well.

Afterall, you know that:
"A person who can speak 3 languages is called "tri-lingual,"
A person who can speak two languages is called "bi-lingual"
And a person who can speak only one language we call "American."
 

IADad

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Jeremy+3 said:
If your school is an English language school then all speeches should be presented in English unless the speech is about modern languages.

When any of my children do speeches in school they do them in english as they attend and english school, it doesn't matter that we speak a different language at home.
I simply love the British response you gave. It's exactly what I would have expected from you. And I'm not poking fun at you, it's just that ingrained britishness of following rules. My son's soccer coach is British, and he enforces all the rules, whether it's necessary in the situation or not, there is no room for anything outside the rules. My band director is British, she has the same bent, she interprets scores very literally, there's a reason something is written the way it is, and it must be done that way.

I had a discussion about a social problem, with the soccer coach, socially, and his response was to "pass a law about it." It's funny that that works in Britain, where in the US, we worry about intent and enforcement and the effectiveness given the anticipated compliance.

Not saying one approach or the other is better, just that it's interesting how we culturally approach these things differently.

(and one of the other reasons I love this place.)
 

mom2many

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IADad said:
Afterall, you know that:
"A person who can speak 3 languages is called "tri-lingual,"
A person who can speak two languages is called "bi-lingual"
And a person who can speak only one language we call "American."
This is so true!
 

Jeremy+3

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IADad said:
I simply love the British response you gave. It's exactly what I would have expected from you. And I'm not poking fun at you, it's just that ingrained britishness of following rules. My son's soccer coach is British, and he enforces all the rules, whether it's necessary in the situation or not, there is no room for anything outside the rules. My band director is British, she has the same bent, she interprets scores very literally, there's a reason something is written the way it is, and it must be done that way.

I had a discussion about a social problem, with the soccer coach, socially, and his response was to "pass a law about it." It's funny that that works in Britain, where in the US, we worry about intent and enforcement and the effectiveness given the anticipated compliance.

Not saying one approach or the other is better, just that it's interesting how we culturally approach these things differently.

(and one of the other reasons I love this place.)
I am not british.
 

Buttaflly227

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My family speaks Polish & English but I think he should have done it in English. I wouldn't have wanted my kid to go up there speaking Polish just for me! I think that's selfish when the majority of the people wouldn't understand it. He could have said it at home to them or even had it on a big screen subtitled in Spanish.
I get that America is a melting pot but we speak English as the primary language here and it's disrespectful to ignore that.
I just think the best option would have been to do it in English with Spanish subtitles or even vice versa so people aren't left in the dark.
 

Xero

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Obviously the school should have allowed him to do it in both languages. Other than that though, if one had to be picked I think obviously it would only make sense to do the speech in whatever language the school speaks primarily. Otherwise a lot of people would be left in the dark, and that's kind of awkward and inappropriate. I am all about other languages and cultures and what have you. Just trying to make sense. No sense in doing a speech in a language only a handful of people understand. Just my opinion.

That being said, I have no idea what the primary language is in the area/school. Maybe everybody there did understand Spanish so it was fine. But if everybody there understood (or at least partially understood) English, but only a portion of them understood Spanish, well then I think it should have been spoken in English. Not because I care, or because of anything immigration-related, but because it just makes sense. He was talking to the whole school, not just his parents.

Again though, I wasn't there so I don't know the full extent of it.
 

bssage

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Buttaflly227 said:
My family speaks Polish & English but I think he should have done it in English. I wouldn't have wanted my kid to go up there speaking Polish just for me!
I agree. While I would have obviously felt honored. I would still be proud. And just as proud in any language. To make a public speech in a language that most of the audience will not understand regardless of the language does not make sense. Those things are boring enough when I do understand them.
 

mom2many

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I believe on page 1 I clarified that 62% of the community is Hispanic of some sort. Meaning Spanish is a predominate language within the community.
 

Xero

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Right, so you're saying that 62% of them would no doubt understand Spanish. But what about the other 38%? My question is, what language does more like 90-100% of them understand (probably English)? Because IMO that language is the one that should be spoken.
 

mom2many

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Okay so I will take this a little further in the hypothetical. Let's say that yes a large percentage of the student body would have understood it in English, but it would have left out a large percentage of the audience understanding it?

I'm not disagreeing with you, but I don't think this is a situation where he did anything wrong. The school told him to pick and he picked what he felt was right. This is a failure on the schools part, they had so many options open to them and instead of thinking ahead they left the choice up to this young man.

IMO if he was my child I would be proud because he chose to honor the most important people in his life. He chose to follow a different path and be true to himself. Is that not what we teach our children?

Also the complaints really aren't from people who attended, I think the amount of complaints was really small (I saw the statistics somewhere but I don't remember them exactly) it was more of a problem for people once the story hit the media.
 

singledad

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I have to day, I find this thread very interesting. Living in a country with no less than eleven (yes 11!) official languages, I find it strange that people can be so offended when something is done in a language they don't understand. Really - it was just a few minutes that formed part of a ceremony. It wasn't a lecture anyone needed to understand. It wasn't a speech you would have to base decisions on. It wasn't a speech made to the nation - it was made to a local community, the majority of whom speak Spanish. It wasn't even all that long. Why is it such a big deal? Why did the minority (English-only speakers) in his community deserve more respect than the 62% Spanish speakers, including his parents?

mom2many said:
Also the complaints really aren't from people who attended, I think the amount of complaints was really small (I saw the statistics somewhere but I don't remember them exactly) it was more of a problem for people once the story hit the media.
And so, it transpires that the critics aren't the members of the audience - his community, but outsiders, who are basically airing political views. And that's the part I find interesting - the fact that the citizens of America, that markets itself as "the land of opportunity", seem so divided on who these "opportunities" should be extended to. Isn't a young man like that an asset to any country, regardless of the language his parents speak?

And yes, I get that I don't understand the politics and social issues that inform these things, so it is probably no use trying to explain to me why this is even a debate. It just amazes me how the little snippets of America that I see on here, differs from what I had always imagined. :cool: