English Language Blues

November 1st, 2008
by George S. Crimmin

[private] v6-11-Speaking OutMost of the business, labor, local and government leaders I have spoken to in the Bay Islands over the past decade agree in principle that, for the newest immigrants to the Bay Islands to succeed, especially those from mainland Honduras, mastery of the English language is a must.

Since 1990 immigrants from the Honduran mainland are responsible for the majority of the population growth. North America and Western Europe have also contributed, but not nearly to the extent of mainland Honduras. Because of that most of the inhabitants in the Bay Islands today have a severe English language deficit.

Bay Islands are dependent on tourism as a main source of income, and English is a necessary ingredient for our current and future success. There is a wide gap between the jobs our economy creates and the English skills that workers need to fill them.

Since our economy is tourism-based, it stands to reason that most of our future job openings will also require proficiency in English. This presents quite a challenge because our new immigrants are not only deficient in English but can not read or write Spanish. This presents us with a gargantuan task; but for the lack of a better resolution, we must give it our best effort.

Business and labor need to come together and address this common problem now. Employers can help by instituting on-the-job English training for a new generation of workers. Perhaps in the future English language training should become a part of our business culture. But English language training should not be restricted exclusively to the workplace. New immigrants who do not speak English could benefit from a broader menu of English training options, including classroom-based instruction as well as occupational skills programs.

By providing English instruction, business, labor, community and local government entities can become partners in promoting our common culture as well as addressing our workforce needs.

But how do we proceed? One could argue that the common cause of our current dilemma is leadership, or the lack thereof.

We desperately need the fresh face of a proven leader who can restore our sense of purpose. And purpose is what gives real meaning to life. We may have arrived here on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now. But unfortunately today, here on Roatán, those least qualified and less deserving are making the major political decisions.

It is in our collective best interest that we create a strong, prosperous, and inclusive workforce here in the Bay Islands. We can only accomplish this by turning a new page in Bay Islands politics, where locals and imports alike can look to new leadership which unites and finds common ground.

When common ground cannot be found, we need a leader who has the courage to stand his ground. To realize this we have to change our way of thinking. We’re not going to change municipal government by sending the same people back to sit in different chairs. When choosing a leader, instead of basing our verdicts on his or her financial status, it’s time we consider character and educational background.

We must reject the notion that only the rich can govern. The English poet Leticia Landon wrote: “Few save the poor, feel for the poor.” There are qualified individuals of modest means here on our island that deserve a chance to lead. We must insist on candidates who are competent, with vision and imagination, and who are willing to spell out in detail their plans for moving us forward. We can help by signaling our willingness and readiness to embrace now, fresh ideas for reshaping our island’s future. [/private]

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