San Juan – The academic director of Spain's Cervantes Institute noted here the problems involved in establishing public bilingual education in Puerto Rico, where Spanish is the mother tongue of the vast majority.
Francisco Moreno, on a visit to Puerto Rico to take part in a meeting of the International Certification System for Spanish as a Second Language, or SICELE, told Efe that the first obstacle will be finding teachers trained well enough to achieve that goal.
Moreno's words follow comments by Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño on the need for Puerto Ricans to improve their knowledge of English and his promise to provide more funds to achieve the goal of bilingual education.
In that regard, the administration announced last month that the new "Bilingual Generation" program is being established so that in 10 years all children on the Caribbean island will be able to express themselves both in Spanish and English.
Fortuño, an advocate of U.S. statehood for Puerto Rico, has yet to offer any specific details on how the plan would be introduced or how many hours would be dedicated to each language.
English should not be a privilege of those who attend private schools, nor should large numbers of Puerto Rican kids have their opportunities limited later in life by a poor grasp of that language, the governor said in announcing the initiative.
Moreno said that the Cervantes Institute, whose mission is promoting the Spanish language and Ibero-American culture, regards Puerto Rico as just another Spanish-speaking country, putting aside the island's political connection with the United States.
Despite his concerns, he made it clear that being bilingual is an asset.
On the other hand, "if (education) is to be bilingual, it must be acknowledged that Spanish is a mark of Puerto Rican identity," said Moreno, a professor of Spanish at the University of Alcala de Henares in Madrid.
Another concern was raised by the president of the SICELE conference in San Juan and linguistics professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Maria Ines de Castro, who told Efe that the whole language question on the island is very politicized.
She said that the first thing to be determined is what level of bilingual ability should be the goal in Puerto Rico, while warning that schools on the Caribbean island must improve their educational level in many areas, including the teaching of Spanish itself.
Between 1898 and 1948, United States authorities imposed a number of plans to make their country's language the national language of Puerto Rico.