Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bastante es bastante!

Okay, it's time America cut this Spanish-language appeasement crap.

I'm sick to death of it. I'm sick of the fact that Bank of America sends me my credit-card statements in Spanish (despite four complaints I've made) and I'm sick of every sign, leaflet, document and television program having Spanish translations or subtitles.

America is an English speaking country. American-English, to be precise, and if you're expecting to live here, you damn well ought to make a stab at speaking it.

It was Mr Noah Webster, following American Independence, who defined 'American English.' He wrote the essential American dictionary, the Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language.

If I've got to sacrifice my British idioms to fit in here (saying gas instead of petrol, 'zee' instead of 'zed') I don't see why my fellow immigrants feel compelled to demand that Americans accommodate their ignorance of English.

I worked in Paris for four years - and certainly didn't expect to get business done in any language other than French while I was there. When I arrived, I barely spoke a word - but I made the effort to learn. These days, I might not be the most graceful linguist, but I certainly know enough to get complex things done.

Not so our Spanish-speaking friends in America! Vile nationalist organisations like La Raza are promoting the idea that not accommodating Spanish-speakers is racist. What rubbish! By that logic, tourists in New York are being discriminated against daily because signs aren't in French, German or Japanese.

What really gets my goat is the attitude some pro-Spanish speakers have. After gently explaining to one fellow immigrant that I didn't speak a word of Spanish, she snootily responded: 'I think it's rather ignorant not to learn a second language, no?'

Her smile soon faded when I explained my fluency in French - and a basic grasp of German I still vaguely remember.

The fact is, American English defines the United States as much as the Stars and Stripes or Declaration of Independence. When Noah Webster established the spelling and grammar that differentiated American English from it's British cousin, he set a precedent.

"The appropriate standard for the American language," argued Webster, "is the same republican principles as American civil constitutions."

In this belief, Webster created 'Americanized' English, replacing "colour" with "color", substituting "wagon" for "waggon" and printing "center" instead of "centre." He also added newly invented American words, like "skunk" and "squash", that didn't appear in British dictionaries.

He created a new language to suit the newly created American Republic.

In the United States, we rightly celebrate our differences and enjoy an enormous amount of freedom to live the way we choose to. What makes us truly American, however, are not the differences, but the few things we have in common. The English language (or the American version of it) is one of them.

By refusing to learn American English - and demanding that the country accommodate their own language - millions of immigrants are taking the opportunities and freedoms given to them by American society, but refusing to consider themselves a part of it.


Reverse_Vampyr said...

Good post, thanks for the link!

Meghan said...

Je ne comprende pas :P

April said...

I agree with you. How are we helping Latino immigrants adjust to their new lives by not forcing them to learn the language? I live very close to the Mexican border and I am often surprised when I meet people who have lived here for 10 years and barely speak English. Sad.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand what you are saying and agree to a point (in fact I refused to learn my parents' first language thinking my extended family should learn English since they are in America), but...

I am studying to become an American Sign Language interpreter. Yes, language is a huge part of culture, but you brought up the French, who actually happen to have a history of being very intolerant of other languages (though a good number of them speak English now), but I mean, Deaf French people were forced to learn French because French Sign Language was banned for a while. Many people think Deaf people should learn the spoken language of the country they live in. I don't think they should. I think they can if they choose to, but a visual language comes much more naturally and is easier to learn. I know you mainly speak of Spanish people, but really I bring up this point because where do you draw the line?

Also, many people who come to this country to escape bad conditions of their own are uneducated. I'm pretty well-educated, and even I find it extremely hard to learn a language. Language comprehension becomes more and more difficult as we get older.

Sorry, your entry got the wheels in my head turning. I am very big on language and learning different languages (though like I said it is really hard for me). But I do agree, many of them should make an effort but seem to choose not to.