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English as a Second Language

posted Jul 20, 2017, 10:34 AM by Tyler Wilmoth   [ updated Jul 20, 2017, 10:35 AM ]
Spanish-speaking/ESL individuals deserve the same access to information that libraries provide as much as everyone else. In Chapter 15 of the On Being Different, Kottak discusses "Linguistic Relativism." Just for everyone's benefit, Kottak defines this as the recognition of all known languages and dialects as effective means of communication. I'm sure you have all heard it, especially in today's political climate, that long-portrayed stereotypes about native Spanish speakers still run rampant in America. Living in the south, I have heard that Spanish-speakers should learn English or leave, and that if they cannot speak English, they do not deserve the same rights and services as those that can. It is a very backwards way of thinking. Earlier this summer, I spent a few weeks in Portugal and it was interesting to me how many people there could speak multiple languages. One person I talked to could speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French all fluently, and you could tell this was the case with a lot of people there. I realize that in Europe, these countries that speak different languages are in close quarters, but they start their children learning other languages the first day of primary school, if not before. I think this is a concept that Americans cannot grasp and I think it puts us at a disadvantage. The text talks about certain cultures (especially in American) believing that their language is superior, and it does state that these are for cultural reasons. If only in America we pushed more to learn other languages at a younger age, I think we wouldn't have as many disparities when it comes to serving ESL individuals in the library.

In an article, "Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users," the focus is mainly on community outreach and serving the community in which we are placed. Specifically in Section 2.3 "Outreach Services," it states that we should "CONTINIUALLY assess and analyze the community in order to aid in the planning and delivery of library services to meet community needs. As librarians, it is our goal to promote lifelong learning and I think this includes language learning. Most of our libraries have access to language learning materials and I think outreach to the ESL and native Spanish speaking community is a way not only to serve this population, but for English speaking patrons to branch out and learn about other languages and cultures. It is as simple as providing materials in languages other than English, in this case, Spanish.

I also wanted to add that it's important not only to have resources and materials in Spanish, but also to have Spanish outreach in communities with a large Spanish-speaking population. This could include things such as newspaper ads in Spanish, a Spanish section of the library's website, staff training on speaking Spanish, as well as even seeking multilingual library staff to serve as outreach staff members for these populations in the community.