March 23, 2005

La Lengua de los Estados Unidos de América

Language has always intrigued me. Aside from the obvious - that it’s a primary method of communication - the fact that there are hundreds of different languages, all of which have been historically set in place to meet a common need, is almost more than my brain can grasp!

Admittedly, I’m one of those people who believe that one should speak the language set forth as a country’s primary. Without getting into a full history and/or geography lesson, it’s clear that English, although in rough form, has been the primary language of the United States for centuries now. It bugs me at times (often, actually) that people who decide to take up residency here fail to learn our language, and eke by for years and years without so much as attempting to learn it. What doesn’t help is the fact that our state governments have determined it necessary to placate the newcomer, aiding in their ignorance, by issuing brochures, pamphlets, varied official documents and forms, and hundreds of signs, in both English AND Spanish. Can you say taxpayer-expense?

Before you get yourself into a dither over this topic, hear me out.

“Ignorance,” as used in the above statement, is not meant in a derogatory manner. Ignorance is unknowing; it’s as simple as that. Being ignorant of the English language doesn’t mean a person is stupid, foolish even, or less important. No way, no how. For example, I am totally ignorant to languages such as French, German or Italian. I just don’t have a clue. I’ve never put myself into a position where I needed to learn these languages. However, if I were planning to pack my bags and make a permanent move to a foreign land, you could bet your gluteus maximus that I’d have my nose in the books long before my flight, so that I could at least make myself clear to those with whom I need to come in contact. Not everyone is as concerned about communication, apparently. This is where I get rather flustered.

The first leg of this two-part post may seem arrogant, impatient and a bit “I don’t give a shit-ish.” All I can hope is that you will read Part II with a clearer understanding about my position in this matter. It doesn’t take much to learn simple and basic English. By simple and basic, I mean to say that if you have just left the airport and were accosted by a group of thugs while waiting for a taxi, it would be helpful to be able to call 911 to get assistance without first having to go through a taxpayer-provided interpreter just to determine that you need help.

In closing Part I, I just want it to be understood that I generally don’t expect from anyone what I wouldn’t expect to do my own self. But when it comes to moving to a foreign country on a permanent basis, please folks, for the love of all that is as simple as A B C, pick up a book or some tapes and at least learn enough so that you will be understood. Please!


Blogger Swifty said...

I appreciate what you're saying, and in an ideal situation, we need to have a common language for all. But in reality, people fail to learn for all sorts of reasons. Learning a language is essentially no different from learning how to use a computer or mathematics. I have a partner who is technophobic. No amount of cajoling, or encouragement on my part can move her to take up the challenge. It's fear, plain and simple. A total lack of confidence in dealing with the new, the unknown. Having said that, in this case, the authorities, instead of pandering to the problem, ought to try and address the underlying causes. Giving people special treatment serves only to piss others off. And you already know from my site how I feel about this sort of discrimination. It's misguided altruism at best.

7:06 AM  
Blogger John said...

Well said. I believe that immigrants to the US should be required! to learn English as part of residency. Too bad our own government hasn't declared English the official language. Or has this happened now? I grow tired of having to look for the English on packages at the store...

7:40 AM  
Blogger Becky said...

I handle workers' comp claims in the law office where I work. Mississippi has, over the past 3/4 years, seen a huge increase in migrant workers. These poor folks who come into my office usually only know their social security numbers, and for everything else I have to call in an interpreter. It's just difficult to help people when there is such a language barrier. I 'spose I could learn some Spanish, but I just feel like they should be speaking OUR language while they are working in OUR country. I agree with you, Carol, that if I were going off to a new land, that a basic knowledge of the language is extremely important. It is also, in my opinion, a compliment to the people of that country that you are trying to learn their language.

10:39 AM  

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