May 8, 2012 | last updated June 1, 2012 2:24 pm

Puerto Rico aims to become fully bilingual by 2022

The governor of Puerto Rico is trying to do what more than a century of American citizenship has failed to accomplish: teach Puerto Ricans to speak English as well as they do Spanish, The Associated Press reports.

Gov. Luis Fortuno, who has been mentioned as a possible Republican vice-presidential candidate, has proposed an ambitious, and what critics call far-fetched, plan to require all public schools to teach all courses in English while still offering Spanish grammar and literature classes.

The U.S. territory has had a long and contentious relationship with the English language, and many Puerto Ricans are skeptical about embracing it, fearing they will lose a key part of their identity and find themselves a step closer to statehood, a status that only about half of islanders have backed in recent polls.

The governor wants Puerto Rico to become the 51st U.S. state. But he says his plan is about economic necessity, not politics.

"Bilingualism opens doors and provides opportunity to our children so they can shine and become successful in a labor market that is increasingly competitive and globalized," he said.

Only 12 of the island's 1,472 schools offer an all-English curriculum of the sort envisioned by Fortuno, while 35 other schools offer some courses in English, such as math and physical education, said Education Secretary Edwin Moreno.

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