Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Culture > Books > Reno man creates own English book to help immigrants overcome discrimination

Reno man creates own English book to help immigrants overcome discrimination

LatinaLista — While there are troubling, and downright horrifying, stories to be found every day, we sometimes miss those stories that show the better side of human nature. Last week, Latina Lista featured stories that were positive and showed how Latinos are helping their local communities.

This week, we will finish the year by focusing on these unheralded heroes and heroines who are making a difference in their communities — because they can.


Gilbert Cortez of Reno, Nevada knew he could make a difference in the lives of all the local Latino immigrants who were struggling to learn English. Cortez didn’t like the way English was being taught to Spanish-speakers — so he wrote his own language primer.

Cortez self-published “800 Palabras y Como Se Dicen” and sells the book for $20 from his vacuum cleaning business. One feature of Cortez’s book that sets it apart from standard English-teaching tools is that the pronunciation key is written from the Spanish-speakers’ perspective.

For example, the English word apricot is phonetically spelled “hei pri cot” in the book because native-Spanish speakers will have a better chance of recognizing that pronunciation, Cortez said.

Gilbert Cortez took matters into his own hands to help Spanish-speakers struggling to learn English.

Of course, local English teachers have mixed reactions to the book but all agree that it’s got merit, and if anything, Cortez gets an “A” for effort, initiative and just doing it.

Yet, Cortez didn’t create the book to make money.

People in the United States who speak poor English are good candidates for discrimination, Cortez said.

“Being proficient in English is key to success, key to financial wealth, key to socialization, key to be accepted,” he said.

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  • Bryan J.
    December 30, 2009 at 10:09 am

    An innovative man, I congratulate him!
    I’ve personally witnessed how proficiency in English affects the latino immigrant.
    When I worked at a pizzeria, I was(still am) friends with two brothers from Mexico. One knew no English whatsoever. The other brother was by no means proficient, but he had a decent handle of it.
    The more-proficient English speaking brother made pizza, and was paid a decent wage of 12-14 dollars an hour. The less-proficient brother now makes pizza, yet he is not paid over 8 dollars an hour. Why? My guess is that if since he can’t ask for better wages, the owner takes advantage of him.

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