Monday, April 28, 2008

What is wrong with speaking MY LANGUAGE!!!!

A few months back, our city's newspaper published an article regarding a worker in a nursing home who had been disciplined for speaking Spanish on the job. The woman claims she only used Spanish on the phone when speaking to her mother, who does not speak English, and to a Spanish-speaking co-worker during breaks. She had worked there for a number of years, and never had a problem until a new manager came on board. This manager did not like hearing her speaking in that language. So she started to find all kinds of things to "nit-pick" on this woman. The woman ended up quitting-but first filed a complaint with the EEOC(Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)- and taking a job at a hospital where-guess what?-she is paid EXTRA for speaking Spanish!!!

Then, last Saturday, I read in the paper one of those famous advise columns. In it, a couple complained that their daughter-in-law repeatedly engaged in conversations with her children and parents in her native language, and that they had said to her many times that they felt hurt by it, but she continued doing it. They asked the column's writer if, in her opinion, their daughter-in-law's behavior is rude. The column writer answer she did considered rude unless the parents did not know English.

In both ocassions, I wrote back to the publication where the article originated, expresing my feelings about this. I grew up in Puerto Rico, but it was mandatory to study English every year of my school years there. When I moved to the States, I was not exactly fluent, but I was able to get by until my language skills developed and I became more fluent and comfortable. Not everyone feels like this. Some people, depending on many factors, never achieve a level of mastery where they feel comfortable. I agree that, if I come here to work hard and get ahead, I should learn the language. I also agree that bilingual assistance should be provided for those newly arrived, or people who, for some reason, are not going to learn the language to a desired level of proficiency: the sick, elderly, or those with a learning disability. But even if everybody learns the language, I believe that speaking our language with others helps us retain a sense of connection to our past and the countries we come from.

How is it that some people feel so righteous that they can dictate what language I can speak in? Many times I have been told, "Speak English!", to which I respond, "Learn Spanish! It is a wonderful skill to have, to be bilingual!" That usually shuts them up! If people is paranoid and think I take the time to speak about them in my language...maybe they are right (if they have done something to deserve it). Otherwise, people, don't assume the world revolve around you when I run into friends and start speaking in Spanish. Is not about really is all about ME!!!


Cassy said...

Right on! I'm a bilingual teacher, and can't stand when folks around me say "Speak English!" - it is my right to speak as I wish. People freak when they hear my students speak to eachother in Spanish, and I reply that my kids are the lucky ones - they have TWO ways to communicate with the world. Check out my site...

Indigo said...

Oh that is just insane. I didn't read the articles in the paper that you wrote about, totally missed them, but that is just ridiculous. FWIW, we send our 7 yr old the Milwaukee French Immersion School and even though we can't understand a word she says, we are so proud of her learning another language and enjoy it when she speaks it as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree.

One of the worse thing is that people from US go for vacation to other countries an they expect the people from that country to speak English to them! "come on 'gringos if you want people speak you language in you country, speak other people language when you visit their country"
Ho, but I have forgotten, gringos can learn other languages, not because they have small brain but because "English is an universal language" Pssssss, yea learn Spanish!

Britannia said...

Interesting to know.