Native Spanish speaker and NPR reporter Lourdes Garcia-Navarro shared how this rivalry is impacting her own journalism from her base in Sao Paulo. She has found that the many Spanish-speaking football fans have been frustrated by the use of Portuguese, especially when they suspect that the Brazilian they are interacting with understand what is being said to them in Spanish. Garcia-Navarro herself has been harshly critiqued for her Spanish accent when pronouncing locations, names, and terms in Brazilian Portuguese.
Linguistic rivalries are not unique to South American or the Lusophone and Hispanophone communities. The recent violence in Ukraine between Ukrainian and Russian speakers is just one example. And the tension discussed in the NPR story is not limited to the World Cup games, as similar frustrations can be found in large Brazilian and Portuguese communities in the United States, such as in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The aggravation the Spanish and Portuguese speakers are feeling in this NPR story and elsewhere are the result of hundreds of years of history, economic and social competition, and geography.
In our own TWIN classrooms, we can acknowledge these rivalries and tensions that our students may bring to the classroom. We can help the students overcome the limitations of such competition by validating their home languages, cultures, and histories. By doing so, we are not discounting their families by dismissing one language for another. Our Network classrooms are designed to teach two languages in an immersion setting; it is not possible to teach every language our students may bring from home. In so doing we are placing value on two languages (often English and Spanish) over others. That too must be recognized.
As we cheer on the US National Team in their important World Cup match this afternoon (4PM Eastern), we can also consider the many supporters cheering the US players on in Spanish in Miami, Portuguese in Framingham, and Mandarin in Los Angeles.
*Name changed to protect privacy
-Mary Bridget Burns