HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH IN PUERTO RICO

    Under the Spanish Government and up to 1898, the main goal of teaching English in Puerto Rico was to foster the education of a group of people that, because of their socio-economic level, were the ones who had access to school.  Afterwards, and because of the change in sovereignty a new reality began for Puerto Ricans.  This new political relationship affected, better say, brought changes in many socio-economic and culture aspects. It became apparent that it was imperative to teach English to Puerto Ricans. Being able to speak English was expected to promote a healthy relationship with North Americans. 

    The teaching of English has undergone several changes. However, the common denominator has been the goal of facilitating literacy in English to the American Citizens of Puerto Rico. All efforts have been related to issues of acceptance, personnel, methodology, material, and schedule. Regardless of the felt need for the English language, history shows no consensus regarding its teaching. 

    For example, in 1901, Commissioner Martin G. Brumbaugh sponsored English reaching from seventh grade up.  Basically, Elementary school curriculum is in Spanish. From there on many policies were put across. Some of these policies formed students capable of using English but others proved not to be successful.  In 1947 Commissioner Mariano Villaronga changed the policy and established Spanish as the media of instruction in all levels and English was to be taught as a required subject for 50 minutes. This policy has not proved to be successful. Another relevant historical event related to language usage in Puerto Rico is Governor's Pedro Rosselló, Public Law #1 (1993). This law establishes Spanish and English as the two official languages in Puerto Rico. 

    The linguistic situation of Puerto Rico is unique. It is very much influenced and conditioned by political concerns and motivations.  These political concerns tend to polarized opinions and the decision-making processes between those who believe that learning English is vital for Puerto Ricans.  Those who perceive the need of teaching English as simply as a second language learning experience, important only to the extend that any other second language learning is important. The truth is that a great majority of Puerto Ricans consider that English learning is vital for them.  Research has evidenced through the whole world that being bilingual enhances the development of cognitive and intellectual skills.  It also demonstrates, over and over, that the brain of those who
speak another language develops capacities not found in .he brain of monolinguals. Therefore, the benefits of becoming a bilingual person surpasses the disadvantages of being a mono-lingual. 

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