Mexican government puts grammatical 'errors' into textbooks

FILE - Mexican President Andres Lopez Obrador stands at the National Palace during a ceremony in Mexico City, Sept. 20, 2022. Mexico’s president on Friday, March 24, 2023 angrily rejected comments by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the Mexican government has lost control of parts of the country. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president on Monday defended the apparent insertion of what teachers have long considered grammatical errors into school textbooks.

Copies of the new textbooks posted on social media show them using words like “dijistes,” long considered an incorrect or uneducated way of saying “dijiste,” meaning “you said.” The same goes for “hicistes,” in which the final “s” is also considered not correct. The forms are almost never used in writing, but pop up in speech.

“It is important to make students conscious of the fact that there are different ways of speaking, in order to avoid judgements based on ways of speaking,” according to an insert instruction to teachers in what appears to be an early grade-school textbook.

Despite decades of censure by teachers and grammarians, the verb forms persist in Mexico, generally in poorer and less-educated neighborhoods. The verb forms are not tied to any particular region or ethnic group.

One textbook seen in images posted on social media also features terms long considered pleonasms — like “súbate para arriba” — phrases that repeat themselves, somewhat like “come up, up here.”

The Public Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some parents' groups expressed concern about the changes, despite the fact the new textbooks are not widely available yet.

“The fact that the formal education system recognizes, legitimizes, promotes things that are learned informally on the street or at home is worrisome,” said José Antonio Cabello, of the activist group “Suma Por la Educación.”

“It is not that what people learn on the street or at home is bad, but rather that school is there to perfect and polish it,” said Cabello. “Spelling, syntax, writing, are learned in school, and that is the type of vales the Education Department should be promoting.”

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who frequently accuses his critics of being “racist” or “classist,” confirmed that the changes have caused an uproar.

“Now there are even polemics over the new school textbooks, because they do not want to include the way the people speak, they want us all to talk like physicists, with technicalities,” López Obrador said at his daily press briefing. “Mexico is a cultural mosaic and language has to do with the roots of ancient cultures.”