Igniting the Bilteracy Movement in Honduras

The CODEBREAKER Story by Suzanne Rajkumar

Under Gladwell’s “10,000-hour formula”, I am an expert of teaching languages. For eight years, I taught as a high-school teacher in Trinidad and Tobago. Likewise, I spent 29,000 hours teaching adult executives along the north-south corridor in Cortes, from as far east as Caracol Knits in the south to Gildan Rio Nance in the north. My accumulated experience in the field of trilingual teaching – ESL, SSL, & EFL – has given me a unique perspective on bilingual education in Honduras. While teaching the adult executives – most of whom had graduated from some of the most prestigious ‘bilingual’ colleges in Honduras – I found that, regardless of their different educational language backgrounds, they all shared certain “Spanglish” errors! As I continued teaching, this find led me to change the materials I used; I stopped using the typical imported ESL textbooks and started custom-designing material, catering to the skill-specific needs of my Latin American clients (Honduras, Colombia, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Peru).

My students are my biography, and their success in applying my learning strategies led me to aim for a more massive application of my ESL material. I am known to be compassionate as a teacher yet strict as an evaluator … I believe in preparing my students for excellence, not mediocrity!

What I’ve learned in 29,000+ hours teaching in Honduras

I started to observe that my Honduran students were making mistakes just as I did as a native English Speaker! So, I decided to take a closer look. I realized that many “bilingual” schools in Honduras are just monolingual English-speaking schools, where kids are taught to use English principally. Spanish, for these school, is the extra class students can take. Insufficient Spanish classes have led to poor Spanish writing skills and a horrible Spanglish epidemic which threatens the foundation of the national identity of the language learner in Honduras. My students, for example, had poor memories from previously-taken Spanish language classes, complained about grammatical forms and verbs, and admitted to surviving classes by copying homework from their peers.

I thought, how could I make grammar interesting enough to my students that they would not only remember the lessons, but also practice their newly-learned skills outside of the classroom? And then, the idea came to me… CBC CODEBREAKER was born!

What is CBC CODEBREAKER? Continue reading….

CBC CODEBREAKER is a dynamic card game intended to challenge its players to decipher the Spanish/English Language Code within a millisecond of a minute. Designed for one to four players, the game teaches its players to make correct grammatical judgements when organizing their ideas in English or Spanish. Once a skill is learned, the brain wants more stimulation. Likewise, reading comprehension velocity is impacted positively, and players are conditioned to read fast in order to think and answer quickly. My mission is to bring happiness to classrooms around the world through my ESL games. CBC CODEBREAKER has been tested with my adult students, undergrads, kids in 3rd and 5th grade, and they’ve all had a great time playing it.

Gamification principles applied to “tedious, mundane, complex grammar concepts” using CBC Codebreaker

In Trinidad and Tobago – the country which I come from – card games are a key socializing tool. People play with friends, family, and even strangers! Playing cards is so much more than the healthy competitiveness; quick-thinking, strategizing, healthy joking, working with a team, and use of memory to keep track of cards played are skills acquired through continuous play. Unfortunately, many of my students were not able to partake in card-playing and table-games since so much of their time was devoted to studying for their future universities! I found that the lack of playing ‘strategy-based’ card and board games delayed the development of certain life skills, including quick-thinking, “sizing up” a situation, or reading ahead of an opponent’s next steps. My empirical theories on the power of gaming were confirmed and supported as gamification spread across the internet. While my game is not yet digital, the card game version is highly interactive.

Our “Biliteracy Movement” with CBC CODEBREAKER

The term ‘bilingual’ has become diluted in Honduras. Today, if a candidate can demonstrate enough social conversational skills, they are considered bilinguals. Unfortunately, that assumption does not cut it in the real world of work, where employers are seeking skilled “bilingual” employees. Instead, employers are receiving semi-bilingual graduates with enough pronunciation; it is not worth the investment for employers to hire someone just because they studied English. Employers are looking for graduates with critical thinking skills in both Spanish and English.

Why CBC CODEBREAKER? Continue reading….

In 1998 in United States, a state-wide coalition of parents, teachers, education advocates and civil rights groups committed to securing equal access to quality education for all children called Californians Together. This group was concerned about the lack of promotional opportunities for bilingual immigrants due to the language barrier. They found that most children of immigrants spoke both Spanish and English (or their native tongue and English), but with a limited proficiency range, which alienated them from applying to or advancing in the work force. The concern of Californians Together resulted in the passing of the Seal of Biliteracy Act in 2011. Many states – including New York, Florida, and Illinois – have followed suit and now hold the Seal.

The CBC Codebreaker DREAM

Eventually, I knew I wanted to expand the impact of CBC CODEBREAKER and dual immersion skills into other countries other than Honduras and was able to do so with the support of my company Corporate Bilingual Consultancy (CBC). My company now acts as a free consultant for those with inquiries about how to improve their classroom’s language performance. CBC plans to provide teacher training and continuous support to Public & Private Schools staff when our games enter practice. We dream of holding CBC Codebreaker Tournament where both private and public schools can compete on a level playing field. We dream of stronger bilinguals graduating with greater skill proficiency, leading them to become better citizens with a greater sense of accomplishment.

Patricia Griselda Pérez
Author: Patricia Griselda Pérez

Dr. Patricia Pérez holds an A.A. from Ohlone College: B.A. and M.S. degree from California State University, East Bay and an Ed.D. from the University of San Francisco. She serves as an educator, consultant and teacher coach, which provides professional development, curriculum development and multicultural awareness services to local and international educational institutions and corporations. Dr. Pérez is fluent in Spanish and began her career as an elementary school teacher in a bilingual classroom. In the past two decades, she has developed a wide range of experience working at every level of public education, providing support to educators and directly to students. Her interest focus on promoting educational excellence through equity in order to overcome institutional barriers that confront underserved students of diverse backgrounds. Dr. Pérez is also an accomplished writer and has published in the areas of multicultural education and organizational management and leadership. She is a contributing author to Multicultural Education in Practice: Transforming One Community at a Time and Collaboration and Peak Performance: A Multidisciplinary Perspective for Emerging Leaders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *