Saturday, June 11, 2011

Y Que

Since moving to Texas seven years ago, I'm surprised to have encountered people who seem genuinely bothered, even offended, when they hear Spanish spoken in the United States. Having lived in both California and Texas, I've always taken it for granted that certain people in my immediate surroundings would be Spanish speakers. Like anyone else, I have my peeves and quirks, but I can honestly say that this has never bothered me. It's never even occured to me that it should bother me. Sure, it would be cool to know what others are saying, and it does remind me that I need to brush up on my on bilingual skills. But by and large, I haven't considered it to be a big issue. Whenever I've needed someone to translate for me, I've always been able to find someone. Otherwise, I've enjoyed the aesthetics of Spanish...the rolling of the rr, the cleverness of words such  as paraguas, and the overall musical quality of the language itself.

I'm not saying that Spanish speakers who immigrate to the U.S. wouldn't ultimately benefit from learning at least some of the de facto language spoken throughout the nation. (Note: The United States has no "official" language. Some states do, but Texas is not one of them.) Obviously, this would help them in terms of basic survival, communication, employment, travel, and the like. However, having taken a few years of Spanish, and having attempted to learn Russian in my car, I can say this much: learning a foreign language is not easy. Especially when you're an adult, and especially if that language is English, which follows no consistent grammatical, spelling, or pronunciation rules, and which is derived from so many other languages. Also, if two friends, relatives, or co-workers are speaking to each other, why not allow them to communicate in the way that they feel most comfortable?

When I encounter someone who doesn't speak English, is it occasionally frustrating? Sure. But I find myself wishing I spoke their language as much as I wish they spoke mine. I don't blame someone who fled a much more difficult lifestyle for coming to the United States, and I don't think they're a terrible person if they don't show up speaking fluent English the minute they arrive.

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