Dual Language: A Call to Action

Estamos en un punto crítico en la historia de nuestro país. A diario, vemos casos de odio y violencia dirigida hacia aquellos que son de países latinoamericanos y/o hablan español. Para los millones de estudiantes y familias hispanas que se sirven en nuestras escuelas, este sentimiento de constante ataque debe ser extremadamente difícil. Como educador de lenguaje dual, ¿qué está haciendo para desafiar esta mentalidad sustractiva?



If you are upset that I have chosen to begin this article in Spanish, what does that say about you as a dual language educator?


Breathe, once again.

Don’t worry.

I am about to offer a translation of the introduction for you.


Again, if the immediate reaction to encountering the introduction in Spanish was one of frustration, what type of reflection on your part must take place?

Hold on.

Breathe, once more.

We must do this together.

Together, we can accomplish anything.

Accomplish anything together






We are at a critical point in the history of our country. Daily, we see cases where hatred and violence are directly targeted towards those from Latin American countries and/or who speak Spanish. For the millions of Hispanic students and families we serve in our schools, this constant attack on their culture and language must be extremely difficult to endure. As a dual language educator, what are you doing to challenge this subtractive mindset?

In a recent keynote address I was privileged to deliver, I reminded that without an overt, collaborative, aggressive, and fully transparent focus on equity and social justice, we do not, in fact, have a dual language program. For you see, ensuring that a student we serve leaves our dual language program fully bilingual, biliterate, and achieving at grade level in both program languages, is only a part of the job. If a student is ill prepared to defend the rights of all, challenge systems that oppress some, and seek to create access for every single person they encounter, then, we, as dual language educators, have failed.

The following are some of the things that have been seen on the news recently. They impact us directly because sociocultural competence, one of the three goals of dual language, must be the foundation of all that we do in the dual language classroom.

I challenge you to reflect about each situation and deeply consider how it impacts your job as a dual language educator. Please know that I too, am going through this same reflection process. And, it is hard work. It is sometimes exhausting work. But, I also believe and understand that through dual language, we can begin to positively impact the world we live in.

Social Justice

July 2018 in California:

“Go back to your own country. Go back to México.”

These are the words that Laquisha Jones stated as she began to viciously beat Rodolfo Rodríguez, a Mexican man in his nineties, with a cement brick.

June 2018 in Washington, DC:

“If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out. You’re not given immunity.”

These are the words delivered by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a way to defend the separation of thousands of children, some less than a year old, from their families, as immigrants from Latin America sought refuge in the United States.

I love Chinese

June 2018 in Washington, DC:

“They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our country, like MS-13.”

These are the words Donald Trump wrote in a tweet as he generalized about all immigrants from Latin America and used the word infest to describe their entry into the United States.

May 2018 in New York:

“Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English. This is America. My guess is they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country. They have the balls to come here and live off my money? I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. The least they could do, the least they could do is speak English.”

These are the words that Aaron Schlossberg, a lawyer, ranted in a restaurant as employees spoke Spanish while assisting other customers.


May 2018 in Montana:

“The reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here, and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is unheard of up here. It’s the fact that you guys speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it’s predominantly English-speaking.”

These are the words that a Border Patrol agent in Montana stated as he detained two United States citizens for over 30 minutes. Speaking Spanish was the cause for the questioning.

January 2018 in Florida:

“Fuckin’ Spanish. You don’t speak English. You don’t have respect for anyone, and I am not going to give you any respect.”

These are the words that a UPS employee spoke to a Latina as she attempted to interact with the man in the establishment.

August 2016 in Colorado:

“You, your kind. You’re the one that give brown people a bad name. Just want to fuckin’ get something for nothing. Speak English bitch. This is America. Down with Mexicans that don’t learn the language of the world.”

These are the words of woman in a parking lot as she encounters a Latina returning to her car.

June 2015 in New York:

“When México sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And, some, I assume, are good people.”

These are the words that Donald Trump used as a launching pad for the presidential race.


June 2018 – A Personal Example in Maryland:

On a recent flight from Houston, headed back home to the Washington, DC area (BWI Airport), I had an encounter with an elderly White man. He was traveling with his wife and seemed frustrated because the late evening flight had already been delayed two times.

When we landed, I stood up, grabbed my carry-on suitcase and computer bag, and stood in the aisle ready to exit the plane. The man stood, put one leg into the aisle and pushed me back to make room so that he could stand. I breathed. I took a step back to make room for him.

As he was exiting the plane he turned to his wife and stated, “It’s probably the Mexican’s first time on a plane.”

My face.


I want to scream.

I want to hit.

I don’t.

I breathe, again.

I exit the plane and once we get to the gate and away from the rest of the passengers, I tap the man’s shoulder and introduced myself.

“Hello, sir. My name is Dr. José Medina. I know that you must be tired, especially when there have been flight delays. But, I wanted to let you know that I overheard what you said about my being Mexican and not having traveled before. I just wanted to clarify that I travel extensively. Actually, I travel too much. But, I cannot complain because I have the privilege of serving schools and school districts around the United States and internationally, who offer dual language programs.” I handed him a business card, wished both he and his wife a good night, and walked towards the terminal exit.”

One thought on “Dual Language: A Call to Action

  1. We still have a long way to go in regard to education the general public on the richness of being a bilingual/biliterate citizen

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