Monday, June 12, 2006

This is America - We Speak All Languages Here

I'm a pretty tolerant person, and as a Gemini (see below), one of my problems is that I can understand and even identify with both sides of almost any issue.

So it takes a lot to p•ss me off.

One of the things that will do it, though, is when someone disrespects someone I care about.

Another is when someone disrespects something I love – and in particular, other languages and cultures.

The other day, someone did both.

One of my closest friends, who is from Venezuela, was at her own son's birthday party. As she was gathering the kids together for a picture, she counted off before taking the photo, "Uno, dos, tres . . ."

Then it happened. Another mother there turned to her and said, "What's that? In America, we speak English."

If anyone doubts what the effects of all the anti-immigrant and pro-"official language" (read: monolingualism) rhetoric will be, there you have it. Intolerance, ignorance and idiocy.

We won't get very far in a global economy - or in the political influence that our country so desperately wants to spread - as a monolingual and xenophobic nation. We need to celebrate and support all languages and cultures, because that is really what makes "America" unique. And that is where our future economic and political power lies.

We can become the country that can interact with all other countries, because we have a cadre of linguistically proficient and culturally aware leaders, who can carry out complex business and political negotiations in all languages and cultures, not just one.

Rather than saying, "This is America - we speak English here," our new cry should be:

This is America. We speak ALL languages here.