Posted by DigitalP , Sun Jul 03, 2011 10:01 PM
I am all in favor of people bettering themselves, that is after all, the American dream. I am in favor of legal immigration, anyone and everyone should have the right to pursue the American dream; as long as they pursue it legally.
With that said, I feel like we cater to immigrants too much, with everything being done bilingually at least and often times trilingually or quadlingually! Don't get me wrong, I understand that English isn't the easiest language to learn. Most people who have grown up speaking the language, struggle to speak it properly. Furthermore, I understand that language (and culture) are very important to people and that they hold these traditions sacred. I'm not asking that immigrants give up their culture or their language, only that they adopt ours as well. I'm not asking that immigrants be able to deliver a speech on English linguistics or a dissertation on the history and evolution of the English language; only that they be able to speak the language to a degree that makes them readily understandable to the average English speaker.
Allow me to present you with an example. A few days ago, I was at the bank. I had just finished filling out my withdrawal slip and was preparing to step in line. I noticed a Hispanic woman with two children, standing near where the line was to be forming. The children were probably between 7 and 10 years old and chattering away in Spanglish to each other. The woman appeared to be ignoring them. I walked up to her and asked, "Are you in line?" She looked at me confusedly, and was silent for a while. I was just preparing to ask again, when she replied, "I wait Spanish". I understood the gist of what she was saying, and stepped into line.
It got me thinking though. I don't know if this woman was an American citizen or not. My guess is, probably not. More than likely, she is here legally, but a majority of banks now don't even require social security numbers to open accounts, so maybe she isn't... I am also making the assumption that she is here legally, because her children seemed to speak English (Spanglish) with enough understanding to make me think they were attending a local elementary school. If her children were as old as they looked and IF her children had been raised in the US from a very early age, then she has more than likely been in the country for 6 or 7 years at the least. I would think that with any effort at all, engrossed in a language for that amount of time a person of any age should be able to have a better grasp on any language then the fractured sentence she spoke to me. Hell, I took three years of Spanish in high school and one quarter in college and I can speak in fractured Spanish like that! And I've never stepped foot in a Spanish speaking country, let alone lived there for 6 or 7 years...
Why hasn't this woman developed a better grasp of the English language if the assumptions I've made above are true? One possible answer is that we (the all encompassing American population) have made it possible for her to do so. We accommodate her by having tellers at the bank that are fluent in Spanish, by having cashiers at WalMart that are fluent in Spanish and by having instruction booklets and information for nearly everything you could want to buy written in Spanish. The university that I work for just opened up a website entirely in Spanish! I hope that along with receiving their degree, they'll become fluent in English, otherwise, I'm not sure what they can do with a degree.
The entire concept I feel is getting out of hand. To quote one of my favorite comedians, who was describing an experience he had in a Lincoln, Nebraska hotel. The area was experiencing a tornado warning and a siren was going off to warn people to get to storm shelters or other safe locations. Over the sirens, a voice came on the intercom, to provide further information. A message was delivered in English, then Spanish and then French! "I feel like they were going a bit overboard with the message...If you are in Lincoln, Nebraska and you don't speak English or Spanish, you're just screwed!"
Now, if you don't know me that well, you might be wondering why I feel so strongly about this, why I'm getting so worked up over this. The reason is two-fold. First of all, I work in customer service and one of the most frustrating things we deal with is people who cannot speak English reliably enough to get their point across without 15 plus minutes of confused dialogue. There are only so many ways I can ask you to create a four digit number to use as your PIN! Secondly, I am worked up about this because it is a double standard and I can't stand double standards (unless they benefit me...). If it were possible for me to live in a foreign country where English was not the first language, or even, widely spoken and understood (difficult, I know, but bear with me) and I lived in this country and became a citizen of this country; I would be expected to learn the language and at least be conversational, if I wanted to survive. If I refused to adapt and learn this language and expected people to be able to communicate with me in my native language; I would be viewed as a stuck up American asshole! Which of course, is 100% true...But that is a different story for a different day.