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.

4 comments:

Nancita said...

I think that person who made the comment must have been a member of mensa, and I'm not talking the smart person organization!

I wish she'd said "Talk American", then we could get her on bad grammar in addition to bad manners.

A la chispada con ella!

liz said...

We will always find people that do not know how to react to different things or new things. We will always find people that are tolerant to others and people that embrace the differences instead . I think is our choice to decide what to keep or not. There are a lot of challenges in the life of an immigrant and learn how to overcome everyone of them is a great lesson that we take with us. As I see it today after 13 years in this country this expression is seen as a joke for some (yeah, sure!!), as a bad joke for othersand as a painful, evil, mean expression for most of us...who have been trying to belong to a place when we are also from somewhere else(we have a big heart,yes...). For us who sometimes feel like we are from two places or three maybe or from nowhere too. I am different and I love it(it sounds easy but it is /has not been ) I don't want to be accepted or just tolerated or I don't want to belong or look like others or speak like this beacuse others will feel comfortable but I want to stand out instead(weird is ok,)if this is what I am. I just wish... there was more people like you Ruth, who knows how to understand and embrace the differences, who looks at us and loves to learn and to share with others your passions, your colors, your food , your music, your videos and your blog...MMMUUUAAA! The world would be such of nice place with people like you.. In the mean time I will continue learning from you and try to do the same thing with others, instead of complaining and bitching and becoming "arrecha" at the world... I will try to spread out my accent, my food, my language, my music and bla,bla, bla. Te quiero que jode. Liz Sandra, tu negrita cucurumbé.

Huertero said...

She flipped over "uno, dos, tres"? How pitiful! Even my semi-intolerant rural kids would have shuddered at that one, I think. Those in my Spanish classes enjoy being in the Spanish-speaking in-crowd, I think, though they still insist that immigrants "learn English if they're going to come here." It's a philosophy that makes sense, if it weren't typically stated with such smugness.

d said...

Hello, I write this comment not for the people viewing this blog, but for you, the sole person who is likely to read this. Because you have restricted the comments on this page to those that only you deem acceptable, and therefor only the ones that agree with you. That apparently is tolerance.
The comment that you wrote about was definitely uncalled for and inappropriate, but nevertheless, what you wrote about was not something I would agree with.
America is considered a melting pot. However, that does not mean that it is a place where anyone can join and expect to change America as a whole in order to fit in. It is certainly a place where any culture should be welcomed and accepted, however, that does not mean that America is a land of many languages, and this is certainly not unique for America, as it would be for Europe. English is, in fact, the primary language in America and that should be how it is. In America, immigrants should be free to speak their own languages, but should also be able to speak English. We are not afraid of new things or changes; we are defensive of our culture as Americans and expect our country as a whole to be relatively unchanged by immigration, whether legal or not. This includes language. I do not want to grow up in a world where the language I was raised with and the one I understand best is no longer enough to live in this country.
I apologize for not being able to get my point across very clearly. I have never been very good at persuasive writing, but in my defense, I am only in high school. You, as a teacher, should be able to understand this. Well, thanks for reading, even if only you ever read this. I don't really mind actually.