Sunday, March 13, 2011

Press 1 For English...Press 2 If You Are Upset

I'm not political, so don't even go there with me. But I did find myself shaking my head in agreement with this quote from a few years ago. (Emphasis mine)

"Understand this: instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English—they’ll learn English!—you need to make sure that your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual. We should have every child speaking more than one language. Yo! It’s embarrassing… it’s embarrassing when… when… uh, Europeans come over here. they all speak English. They speak French. They speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and… and all we’s can say is “Merci beaucoup.”- Barack Obama  (Video)

I live in my own little world and march to the beat of my own drum so in general, I surround myself with people who are supportive of language learning. But every so often, I get a nasty whiff of the "This is America, learn English" crowd.

I just don't understand where the vitriol comes from. This is America, land of the free and home of the capitalist- right? So if a business owner wants to make accommodations for other languages, that's their right to do so. Who in their right mind is going to ignore a growing demographic just because a few people are irritated about hearing the word "Spanish" on a recorded greeting?

If a form is presented in English on the front and Spanish on the back, how is that hurting you? Read the side in English and go on about your day! Then head over to the local bookstore, get a Spanish 101 book, and maybe next time you'll be excited to test what you've learned instead of being upset.

Then there's the "I don't go to other countries and expect them to speak English" crew. Ok, 1)There are many countries where you can get by just fine by only speaking English. This "proud to be a monolingual" notion is very US.  2) How many other countries have you traveled to? Because it seems that the people who say this most often have only been to Canada- if they've even left the country.

I remember this one post on Cafemom a few years ago where the mother was very proud that she never let her kid watch Dora the Explorer. Her reasoning was that she didn't want her kid learning Spanish. This level of ignorance is just sad. I'm not just referring to her sentiment, but the fact that she thought her kid would learn Spanish from a show that is mostly in English with two or three Spanish words sprinkled in.

So I totally agree with the quote above. There are more important things to worry about than whether or not a business or institution wants to accommodate Spanish speakers. Stop worrying about why other people can't speak English and worry about why you are so comfortable with your lack of knowledge. If you don't want to learn, then don't learn. You'll be okay, English isn't going away in this country- but realize that Spanish isn't going away either.

One more thing- if you are worried about people "taking over your country", you are way off base and focused on the wrong demographic. But like I said, I am not political so I am not even going to go there.


  1. Wow! My sentiments exactly! You couldn't have said it any better! I've always had a very hard time understanding their rationale. It so crazy that the U.S. is the only country I've ever been to/lived in where being monolingual is exalted! Qué locura!

  2. I understand that some people can be resistant to change but sometimes people get so wrapped up that they miss the big picture. Plus there is this tendency to just repeat what you've heard as opposed to thinking for yourself....ugh it's just a mess.

  3. I agree with you completely! Great post!