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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Forget who said it, but language is not a constitutionally protected "thing."

Change is tough, amigos, but Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in this country. I suspect that they will remember how they were treated once they become the majority.

To no one in particular:

Personally, I recognize that our government needs to strike a pretty difficult balance between accommodating foreigners and catering to them to the detriment of others. Maybe we're doing that well right now, maybe we're not, -that's debatable, I suppose.

However, I will never understand the folks who get so incensed at having to 'Press 1 for English'. Is that really so difficult and offensive? Is your life really going so perfectly, that railing against pressing an extra button has ALL of your energy behind it?

Bilingual and even trilingual signs are nearly universal in most of the major cities of Western Europe.

Also remember, that bilingual signs help people spend money in US stores that also pay state and federal taxes. These are taxes that even illegal immigrants can't escape. If tax $ are the issue, do we really want to make it harder for them to spend, or easier?

And when you rail against the government for bilingual signs in a Home Depot, just what do you expect the governement to do about it, exactly?

Yeah, I lived and worked in Mexico for two years and I learned the language. Most ex-pats don't, and while Mexicans think this is rude (I agree), it isn't nearly the same kind of issue there as it is North of The Border.

I live in Miami-Dade County, FL. The population is roughly 3 million. Some of the last figures I saw said that over 66% of the people were Hispanic. According to the 2000 Census, 50.9 percent of the total population were foreign-born, a percentage greater than that of any other county in the United States.

So I do have some first-hand views of what illegal immigration, assimilation, etc. are all about.

Most of the Hispanics here are Cubans. A large number of them came illegally, but are now legal due to US policy on Cuba. Whether accidentally or on purpose, the Cubans have turned the personality of the area to predominantly Hispanic. They are happy to turn the area to meet their needs, rather than vice versa.

There are many national retail stores that I go into that it is very difficult to find a clerk who speaks English. Whether they're unable or unwilling.

If you are approached by a salesman in a store, car lot, etc., you will generally be spoken to Spanish first, until you tell them that you don't speak Spanish.

My husband is in law enforcement. He does not speak Spanish. He constantly has to have someone who can translate for him. It's dangerous for him.

My profession is pharmaceuticals. I do not call on doctors anymore, but it is horrifying to know that if I did want to go back to that job, I am no longer employable, because I do not speak Spanish. Therefore, in a job that is built on relationship, I will not be effective in the offices where the doctors and nurses can't/won't speak English.

Finding a construction crew that is not composed of illegals, or at least legals that can speak English is next to impossible. Many times I have had workers at my house that I could not even communicate with. For a service I am paying for.

When we were searching for houses, we ran across a number of realtors that didn't speak English. Luckily ours spoke some Spanish, or we would have had no way to communicate.

You will also find often if you are a party of 4, and one speaks Spanish, even if the person you are talking to speaks English, they will communicate directly with the one who speaks Spanish, leaving them to translate for you.

It's not everyone that acts this way, but it is very prevalent. It's infuriating and aggitating, especially when you are in the minority and are made to feel bad because you don't understand what is being said in another language.

Florida is extremely accomodating to both Cubans and even illegals. There are numerous services, outreach groups, etc., that they can avail themselves of for free where they could learn to speak English. The children can learn English in the schools.

You should not be able to earn a license or certification of any sort in this country - driver's, nursing, doctor, contractor, realtor etc. unless you can pass that test in English. You should at least have the skills to speak English, even if you don't chose to do so on a daily basis.

Uh...how much money does he propose to save the taxpayers in AL with this initiative? It doesn't sound like a lot to me. What's next? Stop maintaining those pricey wheelchair ramps? "This is Alabama. We walk with both legs, here..."

Sounds like he's ginning up support among xenophobes to me.

Businesses will always have signs in multiple languages because that's what their customers want. If their customers didn't want 'em, they wouldn't be there.

Do any of you know how many countries in the world there are where the citizens speak more than one language? Civilized, modern countries? Plenty.

What are you so danged afraid of?

English is the primary language spoken in the United States. Period. I plan on visiting (ok, galavanting around is more like it) Europe in a few years, and you better believe I have already enlisted the help of Rosetta Stone to teach me some functional use of the languages I will encounter over there. If I ever decided to move to another country, before I even step foot over there I fully expect to know their language. And I'm as liberal as they come.

Deena - the point I wanted everyone to consider is in WHAT language should everyone expect everything they need to make it through the day provide to them? Where does it say that our "national" language is English? As long as we do not have a law that officially designates a particular language, then it is unconstitutional to discriminate against someone because of their language. In areas where a large section of the population does not speak English, it would be discriminatory not to provide at least education opportunities that fit the demographic.

Do I find it annoying that everyone in our country doesn't speak English? Yes, I do - I can be honest and say that. It drives me crazy when a group of non-English speaking people decide to engage in a conversation right in front of me in another language, as if they don't want me to be a part of that conversation.

But from a legal standpoint, we are all just shooting blanks into the night.

Yes, Theresa, you have the right to speak any language you choose to. But you do not have the right to expect everything you need to make it thru the day provided to you in that language.

Lori, you crack me up!

When my husband and I went to Italy a couple of years ago, I learned enough Italian to ask directions and basic courtesys. I mostly did it for fun because I LOVE Italian, but it really came in handy a couple of times. One of my favorite memories of the trip was riding the bus in Pisa from the train station to the Leaning Tower and having a conversation with an elderly Italian college professor. We both were trying to use what we knew of each other's language to have a meaningful conversation, and I was so happy that I had learned enough to have that experience!

About this topic, I think as many of you do - speak whatever language you like at home, but if you're going to become a citizen, learn English.

I will play the devil's advocate on this topic and give everyone a different perspective to consider: if there is a "national" language that we should all adhere to, why should it be English? The English speakers weren't here first. If we want to chastise others for not knowing a language, then that seems to make us ALL guilty, because shouldn't we be speaking one of the American Indian native languages? For that matter, wasn't a large portion of the Southwest originally part of Mexico? If that's the case, then maybe everyone in that part of the country should speak Spanish.

I will agree that it would make our lives as a whole a lot easier if everyone spoke the same language, but who am I or you or you to say what that language should be?

Check the Constitution of the United States sometime and see if you think we each have a RIGHT to speak whatever language we so choose.

I agree with Tim James... but not really in the way he presented himself in this ad. My mom is from Mexico. When she was 19 she came to the US to go to school and to learn English. Then she went back to Mexico. A few years later she met my dad (in Mexico, he was there as a missionary). She came back into the US... legally, and they got married (34 years ago today!). They are both bilingual, but because they lived with his mom for the first few years they were married, they didn't speak Spanish in her house (out of consideration to my grandma).
I understand most of the Spanish I hear, but I don't speak it (good thing I'm as white as my dad!)... and only one of my 4 siblings is bilingual.
My sister-in-law is from Mexico (brought to the US illegally by her mother, when she was 8), but she and her brothers all quickly learned English. Her mother, however, still doesn't speak English. It really frustrates me that she doesn't. The oldest daughter (7) of my brother and sis-in-law is bilingual. However, my nephew (4) is not. He had problems learning to talk... and we are all just thrilled he is now speaking. The grandma is now feeling the language barrier with her grandson. She is in her 50s now and learning English is even harder. If she would have learned English when her children were young...
Sorry for the long post, this topic definitely hits home with me.

Bwahahahahaha Lori

HAHAHAHA Okay, that is funny Lori!

Lori I swear I just peed my pants.

Medic - hey, you with your Texas accent are better than my younger sister. She doesn't speak a word of Spanish - but she is firmly convinced that Spanish-speakers can understand her perfectly if she shouts at them in English with a ridiculous Spanish accent.

She did a garage sale with us one time and a Hispanic couple came in and were asking her about some of her shirts and shoes on the table. She couldn't understand a word they said, so she started yelling, "NOOOOO, DEEZ CHURRRRTS ARE SIZE MEEEDEEUM!!!! JOO NEED TO LOOK FOR DEE SMAAAAALLER SIZE CHURRRRTS!!!! DEES CHURRRRTS WEEL NOT FEET JOO!!! DEES CHOOS ARE FIVE DOLLARRRR!!!! NOT TREEEEE DOLLARRRRR!!! I NO TAKE LESS, NO NO NO!!! NO DEEEEEESCOUNT FOR JOO!!!!"

I was seriously about to wet myself laughing, and those poor Mexicans must have thought they'd wandered into a rehab center for people with atrocious cartoon accents. I still crack up everytime I think about it.

Well, I'm Irish and I certainly hope no one expects me to be brandishing a shillelagh or pounding the beer. :O)

Oh wait - now is that profiling or stereotyping...

Linda S -- I know you were. I was trying really hard not to come off as a racist - which I'm not. However, I think we're all guilty of certain behaviors and mind set that are hard to get past sometimes. Like me assuming that all Hispanic people speak Spanish. Hopefully no one assumes I speak Cherokee coz they would be sorely disappointed.

It's the same in this part of Texas Lori. Pre-K, Kinder, 1st-3rd I believe, all Spanish. I would think that after Pre-K and Kinder they could assimlate to regular classes, but nope. When my 2 kids were in Kinder - 6th grade they HAD to learn Spanish. Yes HAD TO. Now to my way of thinking, shouldn't other students have HAD TO learn English? Just a thought. Yes, it was good for my kids, they learned a 2nd language (my daughter is working on her 3rd and is taking her 3rd year of American Sign Language) I guess what I'm saying is my kids were FORCED to learn another language to accommodate those around them, and yet no one was FORCING English on anyone. Doesn't seem quite fair.

Yeah Lori, I learned some of the Spanish words to help, but it was still a stuggle. Spanish with a Texas accent loses something in the translation. ;~)

Great example Lori. Now look at how much time YOU TOOK in order to learn how to communicate to a woman of your desire to give something to her. What does that say??

First, really nice about the stroller. :O)

And I completely disagree with providing Spanish only classes to children. It provides zero incentive to learn English when they are taught in Spanish and only speak it at home.

Hey Medic - Before I retired from EMS, I memorized a whole lexicon of Spanish-to-English medical phrases and questions. I managed to get by OK, but it was never easy. The docs and nurses in the ER used to run find me when a Spanish speaker was brought in, and, even then, there was very little I could get out of them as far as what was going on. Just the bare basics.

Here's a great example of life in Texas: A few months ago, I noticed that there was a young woman who walked over to my daughter's elementary school every afternoon at the same time that I did. She was always carrying a baby in her arms, and the baby looked like she was about 6-9 months old. After watching this woman walking with the baby for about 2 weeks, I decided to ask her if she would like to have my daughter's old stroller, which had been stored in our garage and was in excellent condition. But when I approached her, the woman spoke no English at all, and I didn't know enough conversational Spanish to ask her if she wanted/needed a free stroller for her baby. It took me three days of memorizing phrases from an online English-Spanish website to finally get her to understand what I was asking. Turns out, she's lived here for most of her life... and yes, she needed the stroller. Muchas gracias. Adios.

Want to hear something just as ridiculous? In my daughter's elementary school, they have separate exclusive Spanish-speaking classes, with Spanish-speaking teachers for the kids who speak no English. This is an American public school, and we are teaching these kids exclusively in a foreign language. I have a real problem with that, personally. And these kids are going home every day to parents who don't speak a word of English, nor are they attempting to learn. There are at least FOUR full classes in EACH of the grades, all with Spanish speakers being taught in Spanish. Serously... WTF???

You would NEVER see that in any other foreign country.

Believe me, I was agreeing with you! I assume constantly and shouldn't.

ok Linda, I'm guilty of poor use of words. :~) I shoulda said "I assume" they speak Spanish, but that's just as bad. I didn't know how to put into words what I think when I see people of certain lineage. But I think we all do that. I remember way back in Jr. High, I was the new kid in school, after a summer of fun in the sun, my indian blood tanned me good, plus I had dark hair and brown eyes. The Hispanic kids would come up to me and start speaking Spanish. Soooo, looks can be deceiving right? Darn I shoulda thought about that before I wrote the above piece. :~)

Very eloquent (and true) Medic!

Good points on the medical issue front. But because this nation is a vacation destination, there will always be the need for translators, hand guides, etc when emergency circumstances interrupt a person's travel plans. (Just as I would hope there are those things available should I need aid when visiting a foreign country and do not speak the language.)

Again, I do think that if this is your new home of choice, a person should avail themselves of the services provided to help them learn the language.

As for your Hispanic students who can't speak Spanish? :O) Um, yeah, profiling just a tad. I do it, too. I'm constantly guilty of assuming the kids' friends who are of Hispanic lineage can automatically speak the language, even though they have lived HERE (as have their parents) all their lives.

Face it, we're human beings, not computers. I don't care what the AZ gov says, there WILL be profiling.

Let me take this in another direction if I may. I worked EMS for 20+ years. I worked in a town with a lot of elderly Hispanics who couldn't speak English. I had Hispanic medics working for me who couldn't speak Spanish - a younger generation than the patient. The language barrier in an emergency situation is daunting. Out in the middle of nowhere (the service I worked for was a rural EMS service, meaning lots of county to cover) with no interpreters. It was hard to get any information on what was wrong with the patient. There would be no family members around who could speak English. We did the best we could, and thank God we never lost a patient due to the language barrier, but can you imagine how hard it is on both medic and patient when neither one can understand the other? Talk about frustration. They make Hand Guides for Medics with some Spanish terms in them. We all carried them. But why should we have to? Are non English speaking residents carrying hand guides with English terms in them? OK, maybe some, but hopefully you understand what I mean. Even Law Enforcement have the same type of Hand Guides. What's wrong with this picture?

But my biggest frustration came from knowing that our patients had lived in this country 30, 40, 50+ years and still couldn't speak the language, not even a little bit. People seem to forget that there isn't always going to be an interpreter available when needed. I could be wrong, but if it comes down to a life and death issue, I'm pretty sure someone would like to be understood.

I teach at a college now. My students are primarily Hispanic. It amazes me that they can't speak Spanish, don't know why tho, maybe I'm just profiling without meaning to.

In writing this I see that the language problem is from those that came over years ago and those who just got here. Sad part is neither is trying to help themselves by learning the language spoken here. I guess they figure there'll always be someone near to translate for them.

My husband's family came to this country from Germany in 1849. They settled the land we now live on. They learned the language, went into business for themselves - speaking English, altho broken, but they learned it. It just seems there isn't as much pride in wanting to be part of this wonderful nation as there used to be. And by that I mean speaking the language, learning the culture. I'm all for learning someone else's, but hey, learn mine too, ok?

This is truly the "entitlement" generation regardless of what country they're from. They all think they're entitled to certain rights just because they are now here.

I was born and raised here and I don't think I'm entitled to anything I don't work for. But that's just me and how I was raised.

And I swear my Cherokee blood boils when I hear "we were here first". Uhhh nope.

Anyway, I just wanted to give another view of the dangers of not speaking Engish and how it could mean living or dying.

Thanks for reading. And be kind. I meant no disrespect.

This ad from Tim James was the one that finalized my decision on who to vote for in the next election for Governor (I live in Alabama). Yes, the ad is a bit over the top, but the content is dead on. And oh by the way, I'm a naturalized citizen, originally from Germany. When I came here in 1970 at the age of 8, I was bound and determined not to learn English - no idea why. I found out in just a few weeks what a stupid idea that was and learned English very quickly, as young kids tend to do. Wish I still had that ability to learn another language or two :-)

I have to agree, if I moved to France, I wouldn't expect the French to speak English to accommodate me. Even though we are a melting pot of different cultures and languages, we speak English in America. If you come here to stay, you better learn the language.

Ya know English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Russian and Chinese are the only two harder to learn from what I was told by a DLI instructor 30yrs ago. I have no major gift for languages here. I speak English because I grew up learning it. I got fluent in German when I lived over there, not fluent at all any more.

I DO think some sort of literacy in English would be helpful to those who come here from other countries, but it is a very difficult language to get fluent in. I have sympathy for older people trying to learn the language. Not so much for the young ones since their brains are more flexible.

The biggest problem I see with this ad is that in AL this was already tried. It ended up in court and AL LOST. What he is proposing could cost them serious money again.

Both sets of my grandparents came here in their late 30's/early 40's from other countries. None of them could ever learn English well enough to venture out without one of their kids acting as interpreter unless they knew they were going somewhere their native language was spoken. Not that they weren't hardworking, good Americans - it was just too tough for them to learn at their ages and they sure couldn't afford any kind of language tutoring. I can attest that at least three of them tried as hard as they could to learn and were ashamed at their lack of progress especially when we grandkids would tease them about it.
This doesn't mean I think we shouldn't encourage all immigrants to learn English - I too would try mightily to learn the lingo if I moved to another country. I guess I'm just dismayed by the lack of empathy I see in people towards others who may be trying their best but just can't master the challenge of learning a new (and very difficult) language. It's as if the only measure of your citizenship is your ability to speak the language fluently and you are some kind of second class citizen if you can't. It just bothers me. I'm reminded of a co-worker who asked me "Why can't they learn to speak English good?" Maybe for the same reasons you couldn't.

My niece posted this on her FB page & said it was the funniest thing she had seen in a long time. I didn't think it was funny at all....it's the truth. If you want to come to America to live....go for it!!! But please learn the language!!! I work in a school district that has a multitude of Adult Education classes geared towards teaching English to all types of immigrants. The ability to learn the language is out there and we need to stop spending the money on translating everything into a wide variety of languages.

Yep - I completely agree. Speak whatever language you want with people you converse with - but, be able to function in society with the official language of the country you live in. Grocery stores, drivers tests, libraries, gas stations....

It's not just a pet peeve, there is a safety aspect as well. How can a person take a driver's test in Arabic, yet be able to drive safely on roads that are marked with English signs?

The ad is a little over-dramatic for my taste. The feel-good music and the pause at the end "does it to you?" makes me want to kick him in the crotch... but I agree with him.

I am the granddaughter of an illegal alien (mother's side) and migrant farm workers (father's side) -- just some background on where I'm coming from. My parents and grandparents are/were bi-lingual. It was a matter of PRIDE to learn English. They WANTED to be Americans so badly. They never hung their flags from their former countries on their cars or outside their businesses/houses because it was disrespectful. So I say, if you come here to reap the benefits of the greatest country on earth, LEARN ENGLISH. LEARN OUR CULTURE. Assimilating to our way of life isn't evil!

I truly agree that if you move here and settle here then you should learn the language. I spent 3 years living in Germany as a child (my dad was ARMY.) All 3 years we lived off post, meaning we lived in a German town with German neighbors for the first 2 years and the third year we lived in an American neighborhood built in a German town. We attended school on post/base and took German classes. When off-post we muddled our way through the language in order to communicate with shopkeepers, neighbors, etc. I am not saying that many of them did not know a handful of words but they did not have English signs, paperwork, etc simply because there were so many Americans in the area. A large amount of money is spent on the printing/distribution of Spanish/Chinese/Japanese/Korean/etc driver's ed books, government paperwork, etc. Compared to other countries we are too lenient in making others learn our national language. Live in a non- English speaking foreign country and tell me you don't agree. Oh & I have been involved in a car accident with a Chinese man who spoke pretty much no English yet had a valid driver's licence. He made a right hand turn from the left hand turn lane across 3 other lanes of traffic...or shall I say he attempted to as he met up with the vehicle I was in... He couldn't understand why WE hit him! Scary!

Thats move to your country - darn typo!

OK - here is my 2 cents. If your here in America, whether to live permanently, or on a work visa - SPEAK AMERICAN!! (I won't call it English - ask anyone from the U.K - what we speak is not the Queen's English) I hate that the grocery stores etc.. are now in Spanish as well as American. The old saying is when in Rome....Well, your in America speak the language! I dont care if your from Mexico, India, Russia or Timbuktu!
If I move your your country - I will do the same!

I agree that everyone should learn english. But I've always felt it hurts the individual rather than how it affects me. In otherwords if the person chooses not to learn English they are truly going to be at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives. Now if they choose to get a driver's license or anything that requires them to understand the language then it becomes a different story.

I work in the IT industry and deal with Indian people on a daily basis and it amazes me how quickly they pick up the English language. It could be that its taught in India since so many of them do relocate to the U.S. The fact of the matter is though that they know there is no way they can work here and be successful without mastering English. Its just a given.

Well, my English-speaking immigrant husband just watched the ad and he loves it. My personal opinion is that if you want to drive in the United States, you need to speak English. So I have to say that I agree with the sentiment as well.

I wouldn't pack up my family and move to France without making the effort to learn the language... and I certianly wouldn't feel comfortable operating a vehicle over there if I couldn't read the street signs.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Kudos for cojones!

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