Bilingual Battle: The Struggle For English Only Toys As A Parent and Consumer

Filed Under (Musings, Parenting) by on 08-01-2007

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As a soon to be parent, I have been paying closer attention to toys for younger children over the last few months. As I’ve browsed the shelves of Wal-Mart and Target I’ve noticed an ever growing trend in bilingual toys. It used to be that you could buy some toys in either English or Spanish. Rarely did you have the combination of both. But now it seems that toy makers are increasing their profits by combining both versions into one product. What’s a parent to do if they do not wish for their children to speak Spanish?

Many of you are probably wondering why I am making such a big deal about toys that are bilingual. Plain and simple, it’s the principle of it all. I’ve hated, for some time now, that everything is being geared more and more towards Spanish speaking individuals. I understand that the U.S. is being inundated with Mexicans, I understand that the global economy is evolving, but why do I no longer have a choice as a consumer? Why is it that over time we conform to fit the needs of those who refuse to learn our language or those who are here illegally? One of the guidelines for being a U.S. citizen clearly states, “Applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language.” So then why are companies doing more and more to cater to those who don’t speak English?

Two words…Money and Politics. Large corporations know that non-English speaking Mexicans, legal or not, are here to stay. They know that the government isn’t going to step up and address the concerns of Americans and as a result of this they can reap the profits. If they make bilingual toys they capture the English speaking consumer as well as the Spanish speaking consumer. It has nothing to do with education or broadening the minds of our children, it has to do with the bottom line, profit.

So here I am, back at square one. I see the problem and the cause, but is there really a solution as a concerned parent and consumer? Obviously the first option is to not buy toys that have this feature or promote Spanish speaking. So obviously I will not be buying Amigo Bear, the newest member of the Care Bear family. I won’t be buying Dora the Explorer or her obnoxious cousin Diego. Obviously these toys aren’t on the top of a parents must have list, but what happens when I come across products from companies like Leap Frog, Playskool, and Fisher Price? Companies that have been trusted by families for generations and are a staple in childhood toys and childhood learning…Do I buy toys that give the option of English or Spanish and hope that my kids don’t click over to Spanish and start walking around the house saying, “Hola Mama, Hola Papa” or do I not buy the toy at all? What happens if my child is exposed to Dora or Diego and it becomes their favorite thing? Do I deny them of their wants solely based on my beliefs, or do I as a father turn away from principle to keep my babies happy?

I don’t believe there is one right or wrong answer out there, and I know for certain that there are two schools of thought regarding this. You have the school of thought that agrees with me who feel that the U.S. is just catering more and more to illegals from Mexico and those who refuse to learn our language. On the other hand you have those who feel it is about broadening your child’s horizons in order to expand and encourage their minds to grow and strive to experience other cultures. I think both schools of thought have legitimate arguments, but why have I, as a consumer and a parent, lost my right to choose. Why is it that if I want to buy my child a Care Bear that teaches them numbers and colors it has to do it in two languages? If I want to use Telly the teaching Time Clock to help my child learn to tell time it has to be taught in English or Spanish?

Maybe my school of thought is now the minority. And those from the other school of thought are the majority…Regardless, as a father-to-be it is frustrating.

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