So I'll be down here for 27 months. I have lots of wall space and would love to receive some postcards from you back home. If you send me a postcard:

1) I'll be very happy, 2) I'll show it to everyone that comes to my apartment, 3) I'll send you a postcard, 4) You can be 100% sure that I won't forget who you are during my time here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

English in Juticalpa

From my experience in the last 11 months, there aren’t many Hondurans outside of the two big cities that speak English. I’ve spent most of my time in Juticalpa so I’ll talk more specifically about things here.

I believe the statistics are that the population of Honduras is around 8.0 - 8.5 million people with 1 million being in the United States. How many of those 1 million are there mojado, or illegally? My guess is on the higher side. Every time I get on a bus or get a jalon, someone starts to tell me that they have been to the US and they give me a list of the states where they had worked. This didn’t bother me for quite a while, but honestly, it gets boring hearing the same thing over and over again. However, I have no problem listening to it if someone wants to drive me somewhere for free. One guy who gave me a jalon one day had just returned to Honduras after being in the US for 10 years. Yes, he was there illegally for 10 years. This guy didn’t speak more than 15 words of English. There are probably a million examples like that that I could give. One of my favorites was a guy who was there, got sent to jail and deported, went back, got sent to jail and deported again and finally decided that God didn’t want him to be in the US.

When you walk by someone you know in the street here, usually you yell adios, no one really says hola for a passing by like that. Anywhere I’m walking, I always have someone saying to me ‘bye-bye’. I’m guessing that’s the only 2 words (well I guess technically it’s 1 word, repeated twice) they know. I no longer answer when someone yells ‘bye-bye’. Other commonly known phrases are ‘Hey man, how are you?’, ‘What’s up my friend?’ and ‘I love you’. I’ll usually ignore those also as 99% of the people saying this don’t speak any more English than just that. A few times, I’ve answered them and started talking to them in English at which point they back away completely confused. Then, I’ll start talking to them in Spanish and a few get embarrassed at this point while others are completely surprised that a foreigner can speak Spanish (why? I don’t know. There are a bunch of them that can).

Bilingual schools. There are many of these in Juticalpa. Anyone that goes to the Daystar school usually speaks good English by the time they graduate. Daystar has about 15 teachers from the US. The Santa Clara also has a big group of teachers from the US, but I haven’t really met any students from there. There are a few other bilingual schools in the city, but they’re either still in the transition to bilingual or just are not all that bilingual.

Rich people. The upper class always seems to be an exception to everything in life. In many upper class families here, the kids have lived or studied for some time in the US and some even in Europe. Yeah, usually they’re bilingual.

So will Juticalpa ever become a city where many people can speak English? Maybe one day... one day in the far future. One problem is that many people want to learn English to goto the US. If they don’t do that, I imagine that they’ll find better work in Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula. Also, most people don’t want to study. They’re hoping to wake up one day and magically start speaking a second language. People all around Juticalpa want us (us as in foreigners) to teach them English. One person I know in Juticalpa (he works in my office) is actually studying English. He comes in everyday trying to practice and always has questions about grammar or vocabulary. If he sticks with it, I’m confident that he’ll be speaking well before I leave.

Why do you think everyone wants to learn English here? Many people tell me that lack of English is really the problem in this country, but do you actually agree with that?

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