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Monday, December 10, 2012

Latina Learned Spanish While in Her 40s

 What is so un-American about
speaking two, four or six languages?
Years ago, I went to a language-learning workshop in San Francisco, and the instructor shared a joke he heard over in Europe. He asked, what do you call a person who speaks several languages? We answered multilingual. He then asked, what do you call a person who speaks two languages? We answered, bilingual. Finally he asked, what do you call a person who speaks only one language? We answered, monolingual. He said no, an American, LOL!

Yes, I had a good laugh, but what is so interesting is the number of children of immigrants I've met personally whose parents did not permit their children to learn their native tongue because they wanted their children to be Americans. What is so UN-American about the ability to speak two, four, or six languages? I myself was born and raised in the USA to African-American parents. My father and I both served this country in foreign wars. Yet, I have been knocking myself out for years trying to master a second language, Spanish, and am also able to greet and meet in more than six other languages. Does this make me any less American? I don't think so!

One day, I went to a dry cleaners where the owner is an elderly woman of Mexican-American ancestry. She told me that she didn't learn to speak Spanish until she was in her 40s. Her motive was to get reconnected with her original culture. Unfortunately, her parents didn't want her speaking Spanish in the home. They insisted on English-only so she can be a fully indoctrinated American. One of my fellow church members of Castillian Spanish ancestry asked me why I was learning Spanish in a tone of voice that indicated that there is something wrong with the language. To date, I've traveled to nine Spanish-speaking countries, being totally immersed in the language and still don't see any reason why Spanish has such a bad rap among so many native speakers here in the US.