Puerto Rico Aiming to Become Fully Bilingual

Puerto Rico’s Governor Luis Fortuno is trying to make Puerto Rico fully bilingual. Currently, the unincorporated territory of the US is home to many Spanish and English speakers, but there are no rules which ensure that both languages have equal legal status. The Governor has introduced a plan which would require all public schools in the region to teach courses in both Spanish and English. Under the plan, all courses would be taught in English but some courses – such as literature and grammar – would also be taught in Spanish.

The plan is not without its critics. Some claim that the plan is not realistic. Currently, only 12 schools out of the 1472 in Puerto Rico offer all courses in English. Another 35 schools offer some courses in English, which means that it would require a great deal of work and resources to introduce English into all the schools. A plan is already under way to pump $15 million into the school system to bring bilingual education to 31 new schools.

Some also allege that there is too little support for the English language in the territory. In polls, only about half of Puerto Rico’s residents support the idea of becoming a US state and many Puerto Ricans are unsure about English, wanting to preserve the Spanish roots and culture of the island region. Among those who opposed the Governor’s plan is the Puerto Rico Teachers Association.

Supporters of Fortuno’s vision, however, note that English proficiency will open up more job opportunities for Puerto Ricans and will allow the island territory to integrate better with the US. It will also make immigration to the US easier for the many Puerto Ricans who decide to go to the US.

Fortuno has publicly backed the plan for Puerto Rico to become a US state. He says that economic realities make that plan the best one for the territory. The Governor has stated that he wants all public school students to be bilingual by the year 2022, saying that the move would pave the way for a better future for the students.

The path to bilingualism may not be smooth. In addition to some of the concerns about the issue, Spanish is very prevalent both in the classrooms and the homes of the territory. Currently, all schools are required to teach some English and about 9000 teachers are tasked with that, but the region would need to hire many more teachers to truly become bilingual. In addition, about 2.8 million people in Puerto Rico do not see themselves as fluent in English and about 96% of the island’s residents primarily speak Spanish at home.