The following conversation occurred late on a summer afternoon about fifteen years ago at a house on the shores of Lake Gaston, North Carolina. The participants were a guileless pre-pubescent girl named Victoria and her two much older auditors, Vicki and Worth:
Victoria: There’s a boy in my class who can’t speak any English at all.
Worth: What language does he speak?
Victoria: Spanish. I’m trying to help him learn English.
Worth: How do you do that?
Victoria: Well, I show him something like a book or a pencil and then say the word to him and ask him to say it back to me. Sometimes I even write the words down for him.
Vicki: Does he ever tell you how to say the words in Spanish?
Victoria: Yes. He told me libro for book and lápiz for pencil. He wrote them down for me too, but I don’t remember how to spell them.
Worth: Does it seem to be helping him?
Victoria: No, he really can’t remember his English at all. Everyone in his family speaks Spanish, so they can’t help him at home, and all his other friends speak Spanish too. And everyone else laughs at him because he can’t understand what they say.
Vicki: Oh, that’s too bad. What’s his name?
Yes, Wilmer. . . . WILMER. Continue reading