Thursday, June 07, 2007

Language Barrier

Here at lovely Faulty Towers, we have several contractors to supply services such as lawn and garden, painting, and of course the contractors for the new unit. As is expected in this day and age, many of them are Mexican. Therein lies a problem. We have a language barrier.

Interesting thing though... I speak and understand Spanish pretty well after 7 years of visiting and working in Nicaragua. So...why a language barrier? Simple I am a prick. I refuse to speak Spanish to them.

I spend a lot of time in Central America, I have also been to several other countries in Europe and Asia. I always tried to learn a bit of the native tongue, even if I was there for a day or two. When I go to Nicaragua, I do not expect the natives to learn English for me or to have everything translated for me.

They do here.

I harbor some desire to live in Nicaragua, whether that will ever come to pass is debatable. But if I do, I will certainly learn and use Spanish as my main tongue so I can conduct my commerce and know what is going on around me. I DO NOT expect the Nicaraguans to provide me everything I need in English. Never would. If one knows English and wants to speak to me in my native tongue, so be it. If not, then I am the loser.

For some reason, many from Mexico and Central America vilify the USA, but risk dying to get here. And then expect me to adapt to their ways. I am certainly not a right wing extremist on this issue, but I do feel the ancient advice of "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" is solid policy yet today. But with the guilt many US citizens have over something and the threat of lawsuits, we make sure someone from any country never has to learn English.

They miss out on a lot. As I do in Nicaragua when my mediocre Spanish fails me.

So when the workers are here and need direction, I speak English to them, point a lot and demonstrate a lot. Maybe they will pick up some words, like I have when I am in Nicaragua. I don't think this is racist or anything like that, just common sense. And a sincere attempt to break the language barrier.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You hit upon the crux of the immigration issue in my opinion — the persistent refusal to assimilate. Every other ethnic group that ever came to America blended in and put learning to speak and write English as the priority for themselves and their kids. And often, within one generation the kids could no longer speak the family's mother tongue.

Mexicans, however, have not done that over our lifetimes. Why? It's upsetting to us white people that you choose to isolate yourself generation after generation, and in return solidy your second-class status here. Even in little ol' 16,000-resident Rolla, Missouri I see employers hiring more and more Mexicans. And not a single one speaks English (or will do so in public at least).

Speaking two languages is the primordial barrier to understanding each other, and breeds resentment among us natives. Just as you argue, if I move to Germany, why in hell should I expect everyone I run into to speak enough English to "deal with" me?! In fact, if I moved to France, Quebec, Austria, or Argentina, THE FIRST thing I'd want to do is set about learning the language as quickly and thoroughly as my brain would allow.

Why don't Mexicans? I'd love to know.