Aug. 13th, 2010

ktlovely: (Default)
Good morning. My name is Katie, and I am a Mexican.

Maybe I should disambiguate. Culturally speaking, I'm "American." Ethnically, though, I am half Mexican. My father was born in southern Mexico and was adopted when he was eight days old by a missionary couple from the US. As such, he was raised in a predominantly "American" home with English as his first language. He also as a child learned a native Mayan dialect, since his parents were working with a particular language group in the area on some translation work. When he was ten or eleven, he learned Spanish while playing futbol (soccer, if you must) with the neighborhood kids. To this day, he is trilingual, able to communicate fluently in English, Spanish, and Chamula with no trace of an accent. I should also mention that my father is brilliant.

My mom, she's from Michigan. She's pretty much as white as they come, ethnically, but she is also brilliant, and reached a fairly impressive level of fluency in Spanish in college. She didn't use it for a while so she's no longer as fluent as she was, but she understands it perfectly well.

When people find out that I speak Spanish, and that I am half Mexican, they assume I have spoken it all my life. This is not the case, however; I was a stubborn child and my dad was a pushover, so we only spoke English in the home until I was a sophomore in high school. I took to learning Spanish like a duck to water, and eventually went on to earn a BA in Spanish. I consider myself fluent and literate; my degree is essentially an English degree, with all the reading of novels and literary analysis and writing of theses...just, in Spanish.

So that's the background, just so you understand where I'm coming from. Essentially, half my family is bilingual. The other half understands and knows enough to get around if necessary. And for the record, I prefer to buy my groceries from a self-checkout lane in Spanish. As in, I do it that way on purpose.

Enter Facebook. Lately there's been something going around on peoples' "like" lists, complaining about having to select a number to interact with an English-language menu when on the phone. Essentially, "WE'RE IN AMERICA* TALK IN ENGLISH." The one in question talks about the phone, but the root issue is that they're uncomfortable with the idea that English is just one option among others because there are many people in the US who do not speak English fluently enough to feel confident using it to conduct business. Things like this used to not bother me. Now?

Stop being an asshole. I am a native English speaker and as such, I actually comprehend how difficult English can be. There are no real rules--they call them rules, but there are more exceptions than anything, and some things just don't make sense at all. I didn't even begin to comprehend English grammar until I learned Spanish. The Spanish grammatical structure is elegant and simple, with very few exceptions to each rule, and the language is much more innately grammatically correct than anything in English. And the sad truth is that most native English speakers never learn to use their language to its full potential. Stop and listen sometime. "Don't aks me my bidness." "Nuculer reactor." "Contact the county you were born in." "Where are you at?" "I ain't going." "I seen it already."

No. "Do not ask me about my business." "NucLEAR reactor." "Contact the county in which you were born." "Where are you?" "I am not going." "I'VE seen it already." These are all examples of things that I have heard misused in a solely English-speaking environment in the last week. Don't even get me started on the written communications.

So. If someone can barely speak his or her own language, how do you think s/he would do if suddenly transplanted to a foreign country with a completely different culture and told to learn the language--sink or swim. And I also wonder how offended s/he would be if the natives treated them like crap while they were trying to learn and scorned and mocked them for their imperfect language skills. I just wonder.

For the most part, it's people who can speak only English who tend to complain a. Really? Really--tell me; how many other languages have you learned? What's that? None?'s a shame, really; I found my second language much easier to learn than my first--which made no sense when I was learning it--and remember, I essentially learned it as an adult. So you know what? Let me know when you've learned a second language. Even better, learn a third. Then you'll really have a leg to stand on. See, other languages are so much more elegant than English, and so much easier to learn...and you haven't even done that yet, so stop bitching.

There are many people on my friends list who speak multiple languages; I can't tell you how much I respect that. And most of them, they don't even live in the US. On the flipside, most of the US citizens I know haven't even bothered to try learning another language beyond "s'il vous plait" and "dónde está el baño." Or, you know, "Where the bathroom at, man?"

*It's the UNITED. STATES. Canada, Mexico, and the ALL of South and Central America can rightfully lay claim to the name "America." It's just that the US is arrogant enough to do so on a regular basis, as if it's the only country in two continents that actually matters.

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