National Writing Project

The E-Anthology Says “Bienvenidos” to Spanish Posts

Date: 2008

Summary: Spanish wove its way into the E-Anthology in a significant way for the first time in 2008. Perhaps inspired by an audio welcome in Spanish, participants posted a notable number of their writings en español.


Is English the only way to post a tribute, a poem, or writing in any other genre on NWP's E-Anthology? If there were questions in past years, this year's participants put the question to rest.

In 2007, the number of E-Anthology posts in English exceeded 4,000, but there were only a handful with any Spanish included. The 2008 E-Anthology, however, contained a noticeable increase in the number of posts in Spanish: some completely in Spanish, others with some Spanish words sprinkled in, and yet others posted in equal parts English and Spanish.

The trend might be in part because the 2008 E-Anthology included an audio welcome in Spanish, recorded by Bertha Elizondo, a teacher-consultant with the Sabal Palms Writing Project in Texas, to help make Spanish speakers feel welcome to post in the language of their choice.

"In a way, the brief audio welcome in Spanish reassured me that it was okay to post in my native language," said Candelaria Angeles, a teacher-consultant with the San Marcos Writing Project in California.

¿Que significa ser padre . . . como se sabe si eres un buen padre si nunca tuvistes un modelo a seguir . . .?

Different Languages, Different Tones

While some of the bilingual posts contained the same piece in both languages, others, such as "Fatherhood" by Abimael Rivera, experimented with expressing different things in each language. Rivera, a teacher-consultant with the MayaWest writing project in Puerto Rico, wrote,

¿Que significa ser padre . . . como se sabe si eres un buen padre si nunca tuvistes un modelo a seguir . . .? These questions I have asked myself for at least ten years, since becoming a parent. Merezco yo que me homenajeen en un dia especificamente por ser "PADRE." . . . lo hacen por uso y costumbre o por que me lo he ganado.

When Mark was born, I was the happiest person on the face of this planet. He was the most beautiful thing that ever happened to me, besides my marriage. My wife and I were ecstatic about it. Being the first born in my wife's family where they were all girls, you can imagine. All this happiness was about to end.

A la semana de haber nacido el nene fue hospitlizado porque tenia la billirubina alta. It was seven hellish days we were there for him. I still remember his innocent and defenseless cry when the nurses proceeded cold-heartedly in drawing blood samples from him. Finally it was over and he was sent home. Was this excruciating pain I felt a small sign of what fatherhood was?

"When I started this piece, I just wanted to convey the meaning of fatherhood for me," said Rivera. "Knowing both languages, I find Spanish to be more expressive and artistic. Spanish I consider a multi-tone language, so all the parts that are written in Spanish are because they mean a lot to me."

Knowing both languages, I find Spanish to be more expressive and artistic.

Writers Feel More Comfortable in Home Language

When asked about her experience posting in Spanish on the E-Anthology, Claudia Gomez, a teacher-consultant with the Sabal Palms Writing Project in Texas, said, "Spanish is my home language. My entire family is Spanish speaking before English. I wanted to post mostly in Spanish because I think the language is richer. I like the way it sounds better."

Still, she assumed that most in the Sabal Palms summer institute did not know Spanish because she didn't hear it used during discussions. That changed after a visit from Dr. Melba Salazar-Lucio, a teacher-consultant with the Sabal Palms Writing Project and national coordinator for Project Outreach 3, who brought her Spanish writings and spoke about poetry during the second week of the summer institute.

Writers, whether they are teachers or students, develop along the same lines, according to Salazar-Lucio. "When students are allowed to write in the language of their choice, many times their writing is transformed. If children are given permission to write in the language they know, they are going to be more comfortable with it, and that is how we develop writers."

Not unexpectedly, the increase in Spanish-language posts raised questions for an overwhelmingly monolingual community. Members of the E-Team, a group of teacher-leaders who respond to E-Anthology posts and encourage others to respond, wondered how limited the responses to Spanish posts would be. Would posting in Spanish limit the kind of feedback that writers want and expect on the E-Anthology? Is it more important for writers to feel affirmed in posting in a language of their own choice than to receive a larger number of responses?

The questions remain to be explored more, but Gomez was actually surprised when she received positive responses to her Spanish-language posts from all over the country, including from states not known for speaking Spanish.

Monoculture Is Unhealthy

"The number of Spanish posts show the conscious decision by the teacher-consultants from Puerto Rico and New Mexico to make this venue theirs—to make it work for them," said Claudia Swisher, a teacher-consultant with the Oklahoma Writing Project and a member of the E-Team.

"Language is essential to maintaining culture. From the work I've done with various Native American people, I know there are things that just can't be expressed in English," said Wendy Warren, a teacher-consultant with the Montana Writing Project and a member of the E-Team.

The Spanish posts limited the responses that E-Team members could provide—in fact, members relied heavily on Bertha Elizondo to respond to the Spanish posts. Still, the E-Team embraces the multilingual trajectory of the E-Anthology.

Warren says, "I am greatly concerned by the attitude of some people in America that we should be an 'English only' country. A monoculture—in a biological habitat or in a society—is not healthy. I long for the days when people will begin to see the richness and strength that diversity brings to our nation. Perhaps the E-Anthology can be a leader in this trend of acceptance."

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