Hablar English?

April 17, 2009

I am a proud citizen of the United States of America. My grandparents moved to this fine country from Ireland after they got married, and they raised three lovely children on this divine soil in the most American way they could. I’m proud of this country, and as many of you out there know, I am extremely patriotic. This is why I have such a HUGE problem with this countries slow transition into a Spanish speaking land.

It is absolutely uncalled for that when I go to the local McDonalds, the cashier doesn’t understand my order. I shouldn’t be scowled at when I can’t make out the thick Spanish accent of the person answering Papa Gino’s phone. There’s no reason I should have to listen to phone directions be repeated in Spanish six times before I get to the English options I am looking for.

When our ancestors came to this country, they learned English. They took classes so that they could become integrated. What makes these Spanish immigrants so special that they don’t have to learn to communicate with the natives to this country? Instead, I am forced to take Spanish classes in high school and college, not so I can visit Spanish speaking countries, but so I can communicate with the person taking my food orders. This is WRONG.

I know that there is no national language in America. But I also know that the Constitution was written in English and it did NOT have Spanish subtitles. America is known as a melting pot, it has always been a refuge for people speaking freedom. However, all of those people have learned to speak English so they can communicate. Whether they continue to speak their native language at home or not, they speak English while in public. However for some reason, these Spanish speaking immigrants think that they are above all of these integrated people, and get angry because Americans can’t understand them. Why should I learn to talk to you, when you came to me? If I was going to move to Italy, I would learn Italian before I went. I wouldn’t expect the Italians to adapt to the fact that I don’t speak their language.

Why should I learn to speak Spanish if I have NO intention of ever visiting Spain, Mexico or any other Spanish speaking land? Whether it is stated anywhere or not, English IS this countries national language. When you come here, you should not expect others to talk to you unless you’re speaking English. Seriously people, hablar English, or just go home.

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22 Responses to “Hablar English?”

  1. thresholdlurker said

    I’d love to go with you on this, but I can’t.

    First off, not everyone will learn English. My great grandfather, a Czech immigrant, never learned English (as a consequence, my great grandmother divorced him and raised her three daughters by herself, but that’s another story).

    Second, Irish immigrants are a bad example. They should, in theory, already speak English! Or something not unlike it…

    There was a story from NPR just recently (I’ve been unable to dredge it out of the archives, but I’ll try for a link) where there were large portions of a Midwestern state where German was the primary language well into the 20th century. Through some of the German scare even!

    Go to China Town in NY and see how many folks don’t speak English.

    Or let’s take a look at Canada, our near neighbor, where you have an entire province trying to maintain French as its primary language. To say nothing of the First Nation peoples whose primary language is Cree. Who also parallel Native Americans, many of whom are trying to recapture old languages as a cultural thing.

    I think it’s safe to say that not every immigrant is going to learn the language. Also, if they live in a dense immigrant society, there’s going to be less impetus. Furthermore, language is tied into identity. If you’ve just uprooted yourself and immigrated, you’re already having identity problems and a language can help you hold on to that. I would argue that these isolated cases, given a large enough population, will cause a stronger retention of Spanish. In which case, why do we have to force them to learn? They will adapt some, we will adapt some, and the world will change. English will change. America will change. America is not the same now as it was when your ancestors immigrated. Your descendants will not see the America of today. I choose to let it pass as it will rather than interfering.

    Nationalism is commendable, to an extent. Beware of xenophobia, however, because that will not end well.

  2. lenny25 said

    All the examples your giving are areas where it is not uncommon. China towan is chinatown FOR that reason. I’m talking about the people EVERYWHERE who just decided, you know what…I dont want to speak English so everyone else will suffer. If you wanna set up a little city somewhere in New Mexico where they only speak spanish…go for it. Stop applying for jobs at McDonalds everywhere else.

    • Notelrac said

      You’re exhibiting xenophobia and a remarkable lack of empathy and understanding of the issues an immigrant faces in your post. Your response to thresholdlurker is even worse, projecting all sorts of negative and stereotypical attitudes on a hapless employee who does not deserve it.

      Rather than venting your spleen in a blog, why don’t you complain to the manager on duty at the restaurant at which you are being offended? If you hold a dialog in a non-confrontational manner, you might become educated on why the place of business has hired the individual with those particular qualifications.

  3. booklet said

    It seems like your issue is not with non English speakers but with non English speakers working in jobs that you think require English skills.

    So who is really responsible for this problem? The non English speakers that want to work and apply for jobs or the business owners that decide to hire these seemingly “unqualified” workers?

    If fast food joints didn’t hire these people, then maybe the non English speakers would be forced work cleaning toilets, which is really the only job they should be allowed to work if they don’t speak English (sarcasm)

    As for notelrac’s suggestion, I can tell you exactly what the managers at one major corporation say when they get the “why doesn’t anyone speak English?!!?!!” question: “The ethnicity of employees we hire corresponds with the demographics of the area. Here, our large number of Brazilian/Indian/Mexican employees simply matches with the make-up of the town”

    • Notelrac said

      I knew what the manager would say about demographics. However, I’ve found that giving a willful xenophobe factual information doesn’t work; they have to go do their own research. And even then, it will require a personal epiphany for them to overcome their pre-existing prejudices.

  4. anonymous said

    For someone who thinks that all people in America speak English, you seem to not have a command for basic English grammar.

  5. Palm Tree said

    In attempting to raise these children “in the most American way they could,” did your grandparents eliminate all vestiges of Irish tradition from their lives?

    Is that the “American way”?

    • Maple Tree said

      What are you talking about? You’re comment does not make any cense.

      • lenny25 said

        Just a thought, Maple Tree…
        You should quit while your ahead…

      • thebeerphilosopher said

        Pssst! Lenny! It’s “you’re,” as in “you are.”

        Can we please stop talking about spelling? I ceremonially lit my Warner’s text on fire after graduating high school, and I’d rather not remember anything about it other than its value as kindling.

      • Maple Tree said

        Dear Lenny,

        Maybe YOU should quit while “your” ahead.

        Or did you mean that I should quit while I am a head?

    • lenny25 said

      Actually if you reread my post, you’ll see that I believe that holding up your own nationality inside your own home is very important, however, outside of your home is a different story.
      We all have a friend who is bilingual who speaks one language at home and English outside of home. That’s the point. What you do inside your home is your own. On the streets of America, speak English or don’t speak.

      • Palm Tree said

        “On the streets of America, speak english or don’t speak”

        I find this so detestable, and so ignorant i don’t even know how to begin. I believe that it is important for immigrants for themselves to learn English so that it will make it easier for them to function in society. However, i think that forcing anyone to do anything is ignorant and anathema to the values that make America great.

  6. thebeerphilosopher said

    Look, Lenny, I understand your frustration. I share it to a degree. But let’s not be irrational. You wrote:

    “Instead, I am forced to take Spanish classes in high school and college, not so I can visit Spanish speaking countries, but so I can communicate with the person taking my food orders. This is WRONG.”

    Really? You were “forced”? If so, then I agree that this is wrong. But I believe that you could have just as easily taken French (or maybe Latin) in high school, and that our particular college offers a French major and, if I’m not mistaken, Mandarin Chinese as well as Spanish. Furthermore, the point of a Spanish class is not to teach you how to order a hamburger. It is as much about learning the intricacies of Spanish-speaking cultures as it is about the language to which they are inextricably linked. There is value in that knowledge, even if it may never be useful to you in your lifetime.

    • lenny25 said

      I’d like to believe I had a choice, but due to lack of funding in my high school, I was indeed forced down the path of spanish.
      And to be quite honest, the only things I remember from Spanish class is how to ask where the bathroom is and how to order myself a few basic foods.
      My point is offer languages as an elective to those who share your passion for knowledge, and leave the rest of us alone.

      • thebeerphilosopher said

        Right, but that’s a silly argument. Because in American we don’t see education prior to college as elective in any respect. You could just as easily say, “We don’t use the metric system, so why should I learn it?” or “We don’t speak old English, so why should I read Shakespeare?” or, “I don’t plan on dissecting animals in the future, so why should I carve up a frog in biology?”

        The fact that your language education was poorly funded and poorly taught does not mean that we should make it an elective for our children. We are, after all, participating in an increasingly globalized workplace in which language barriers slow the speed of business. You are at a disadvantage if you know only one language.

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