Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What’s Wrong With the Spanish Language?

One evening, in a local restaurant near my home where I am accustomed to speaking Spanish with an all-Latin American staff, the shift manager happened to be working at the register. When I began to order in Spanish, she snapped at me with a heavy Latin-American accent, “I don’t speak Spanish, sir! That was very interesting because she is supervising six or more workers who speak primarily Spanish and little or no English. Was this something I should take personally, who knows? I do know that it would have been a good customer service policy to flow with my Spanish, at least, until it became evident that my level of fluency is limited. I make it a practice of giving larger tips to restaurant personnel who interact with me in Spanish without getting offended like this manager.

Brenda, a friend from El Salvador was telling me that she often meets US Latinos who claim that they do not speak Spanish, but really do. This reminded me of a conversation that I had with Mariana who told me that when she first came to Los Angeles from Nicaragua, many Latinos would respond in English when she spoke to them in Spanish saying, “oh, I’m American; I don’t speak Spanish!” I asked Brenda what she thinks is the reason for their apparent shame with the Spanish language. She could not tell me.

Throughout my life, I noticed many Latinos (not all as I’ve met a many proud Latinos as well) who were born or raised in the US with a high level of discomfort with the Spanish language. Even Judge Mathis on one of his shows openly criticized a Latino witness for trying to camouflage his ethnicity. He was literally was bragging about his little knowledge of the Spanish language as though that makes him more American.

What is so un-American about speaking Spanish? This language, among several others, was spoken in the US long before the US was born. And unlike Dutch, German, French, and other languages spoken here in US history, Spanish has remained a silver lining throughout the history of this country. In other words, Spanish is as American as cherry pie! People who speak it need to quit letting xenophobes  dictate where they place their cultural loyalty. The USA is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual nation and always will be. In my city alone, Oakland, more than 88 languages are spoken.

When I served in the US Navy, I served among people who speak Samaon, Tagalog (Filipino), Cantonese, and Spanish. I think there should be a Spanish-speaking “Pride” movement here in the US, with parades to wake people up.

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