Last Wednesday, California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that immigrants who want to learn English should tune out Spanish-language media. The governor suggested that immigrants should avoid Spanish-language newspapers, books and radio during his visit with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in San Jose. He based his comments on his own experience as an Austrian immigrant.
Oh yes he did!
Now, first let me say that the Governor is being awfully presumptuous in thinking that the only immigrants wanting/needing to learn English are Latinos. Hello? California is home to large populations of Asians, Africans, and yes Europeans (France, etc.) that might need to learn English as well.
I have to say that his comments further feed into this conspiracy theory that I’m working with that “comprehensive immigration reform” is for Latino’s only. But that’s another subject all together.
But back to this Spanish thing.
I’ve been giving it some thought, and I for one don’t have too much of a problem with Spanish. In fact, I wish I had studied more Spanish than I did while in high school. I did two years of Spanish in high school and I took sign language my freshman year in college and that was it on the foreign and not-so-foreign languages. If you ask me, not enough American’s speak any language other than English, and no, Ebonics doesn’t count.
However, I do have a bone to pick with people who use Spanish as their first and only language in the workplace and in public businesses. At work, I think it’s very rude to have entire conversations in Spanish with English speaking people in the room. At the same time, when I go to Starbucks, I think it’s rude for the barista to take orders in Spanish. And for the record, that goes for Chinese, Korean, French, and any other language.
I think when you’re in public settings like stores, banks, the workplace etc, it should be common knowledge that you speak the official language of the country you are in, unless however your job is a translator or something to that affect or you’re a tourist and just don’t know the language.
Case in point, while I was in Sierra Leone, and even though they were colonized by the Brits so they speak the Queen’s English for the most part, I made it my mission to pick up greetings in Creole and Mende so that I would be able to at least use some of the country’s native language while I was visiting with the tribes and out in the Bush where English is not their first language.
In Los Angeles, there are entire pockets where Asians, Latinos, and Jews can do just about everything from pay bills to shop for groceries without ever uttering one word in English. Just one look at the billboards to rental advertisements, and it’s clear who the target of the message is. I have mixed feelings about that as well, for the most part because whereas with Spanish, that used to be the case only on the Eastside of Los Angeles, it’s now just about all of Los Angeles.
Now, I don’t think Latino’s need to give up their Novelas to learn English, but I do think that if there’s really a deep desire to assimilate into American culture, English is the key to the front door. That is unless the goal is to make California a Spanish-only speaking state, which I might add isn’t that far off into the future.
But I imagine it could go the other way as well, and American’s could turn off American media and tune into foreign media and learn a language other than English. And in the process who knows, we Americans might just discover how irrelevant Paris Hilton is in other countries and that rain is not breaking news. Just a thought.
But that’s my feelings on the issue, what are yours?