By James Archer
Do you think all immigrants should have to speak English?
During my life, I have heard a lot of people complain about hearing a message on the phone saying “Press 2 for Spanish.” I’ve heard people say, “They’re in America, they should learn English.”
My own sainted mother was one of those people that resented hearing the “Press 2 for Spanish” phrase. Now you have to know – my Mom was a truly good person. She helped SO many people, of all races and colors, and religions. But she just had this idea in her head about America, and English.
Frankly, I just don’t understand my Mom’s attitude.
Here’s some background. My Father was in the Air Force. I was born in Germany, and our family lived in Italy when I was in high school. My Mom was a professional bargain hunter. Mom travelled all over the north of Italy buying stuff from little shops at incredible discounts. Guess what. She didn’t do her negotiations in Italian. Sure, sometimes she had to use hand signals, or gestures, to communicate. But mostly she expected the little shop keepers to speak English. And mostly, she was not disappointed.
Why would we expect shop keepers in Italy to speak English, but be annoyed that shops here market in Spanish?
News Flash – it isn’t the Spanish speakers that are driving this train – it’s the corporations that want to market to them. I know from our ShareLingo classes here in Denver that people really do want to learn and practice English. They just need the opportunity and time to make it happen.
According to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The US Hispanic Market is approaching $1.5 Trillion. That’s a big number, and of course companies like Coke, McDonalds, Comcast, Home Depot, and so many others want to sell to that market.
And, did you know that, according to an article in The Guardian, The United States is the second biggest Spanish speaking country in the world, behind only Mexico? Yep, we have more Spanish speakers than Spain!
Personally, I am jealous of all the countries in which the citizens are encouraged to speak multiple languages – which, by the way, seems to me to be just about every country in the world except ours. I’m sure you’ve heard how amazing it is that Europeans think nothing of speaking 3 or 4 languages.
So, back to the point. There are lots of posts, blogs, articles, and news about this topic online. In one that I found, it is even the basis for a Civics Class assignment in the Global Schools Project. High school students are being asked to write essays on how they feel about this topic.
So how about weighing in? Which side of this debate are you on? And Why? Do you feel like it’s wrong for US companies to market, or offer help, in languages other than English?
Do you think we should force all immigrants to speak English?
Or do you feel, as I do, that it’s a wonderful opportunity for America to finally become bilingual? Has your view changed at all in the past 10 or 15 years?
And if you are OK with companies reaching out to Latinos (and other immigrants) in other languages, what about government? This would include places like courtrooms, schools, the DMV, etc. Do you feel like it’s ok for tax dollars to be spent producing materials in other languages? Or does that cross the line?
The ShareLingo concept is really simple. Instead of learning from a white board or a computer, we help English learners meet Spanish learners for face-to-face practice together. A bilingual facilitator uses our method and materials to keep things moving so you are never bored. We have language learning solutions for individuals, businesses, non-profits, and schools. Learn more at www.sharelingo.org.