… Learning a foreign language is hard. Really hard. It’s especially hard when I keep getting the bits of Italian I learned mixed in with the Spanish I am currently studying. I am honestly in awe of the multilingual. The biggest obstacle to learning a new language is actually trying to speak it without sounding like complete and total idiot. It really does take a certain level of confidence to speak to a native Spanish speaker in their tongue. You hope they are kind and patient.
I admit that I used to inwardly cringe whenever I had to speak to a person who was not a fluent English speaker. I knew I was in for a slow conversation with lots of repetition. I loathe having to repeat myself. There’s nothing worse than being incredibly busy and having to stop what your doing and spend twenty minutes trying to make myself clear to someone when it would otherwise take a two minute conversation.
Learning Spanish has not only made these interactions run a bit more smoothly and thankfully quicker, it has also made me infinitely more compassionate. I understand that the Spanish speaker in front of me is just as uncomfortable fumbling for words in my language as I was when I visited Rome and butchered the beautiful Italian language. There is a reason why expats seeks each other out when they move to foreign countries. It’s the comfort of the familiar language and customs. It’s not an indicator that these expats want nothing to do with the society they moved to. They aren’t intentionally trying to not assimilate, just remain in their comfort zone.
In the US the Spanish language is no longer about the human desire to communicate and the preference to do so in the way that is the most comfortable and familiar to the speaker. It has become a political tool for the immigration platform. Individuals who support tough immigration laws are usually the ones that don’t appreciate having to “Press 1 for English” and feel that if you move to the US you are obligated to speak our language – Welcome to America, now speak English.
I support tough immigration laws but I know first hand that being required to speak a foreign tongue isn’t something learned overnight. It takes years to learn. So what do immigrants, legal or illegal, do in the meantime if we are to not tolerate a single utterance of the Spanish language? Preventing someone from actively being involved in their new culture due to language constraints is the exact opposite of assimilation.
It’s completely unrealistic to expect a person to jump into another country and immediately speak and behave in a culture foreign to them. There has to be a transition phase which is going to take time. This is why immigrants seek out the local Spanish market and retailers. It’s not that they don’t want to be a part of the US and are making a political statement; they just want to by groceries and run errands with a minimal amount of effort. As a parent I can not find fault in that.
The Spanish language is also not a threat to national security. It will follow the same generational course as any other language spoken in the US. The parents will speak minimal English but their children will be effortlessly bilingual and the grandchildren will speak nothing in their ancestral tongue. I could offer up my own Hispanic family as a prime example.
I think the majority of this Spanish speaking phobia is based on ignorance and underexposure to foreign places and people. But thankfully God made us evolving creatures capable of transition and intellectual growth. As we gain knowledge our understanding develops which enables us to be kinder and empathetic to our fellow man. Language enables us to gain this needed knowledge so why would you want to limit yourself to just one?