If you've ever called my office, you will have heard my outgoing bilingual message. It's your run of the mill, "hi, I'm not here," message, then repeated in Spanish. Did I mention the message is BILINGUAL?
Today I got a message from a reader upset that I have a message in Spanish (a complaint that I get fairly often, actually). This particular reader equated my outgoing message with how supporters of the Dream Act (as depicted in a photo that ran along with an article I wrote) also use Spanish.That's the problem, the caller said. That we don't want to learn English.
And did I say my message is in ENGLISH and Spanish?
I have an outgoing message in TWO languages not because I want to impose my own tongue on English speakers. I have a message in Spanish to make callers who may only speak Spanish feel like they can talk to me, like they'll be listened to. In fact, my message says "I will communicate with you in either language."
For the record, not one of the young Dream students I interviewed spoke Spanish to me. They all speak perfect English, even the ones who arrived here when they were nine or ten. This is the rule, not the exception: every single student I've interviewed over the years, regardless of where they're born, spoke perfect English after two or three years in this country. In fact, that's a condition embedded in the Dream Act: if you want to attain residency, you have to go to college. Have you ever heard of a student attending college and not having to take English 1A?
And why wouldn't they learn the language? It's everywhere: they all listen to Justin Bieber, watch Glee and read Twilight. English is the dominant language in this country, it's the global language of commerce and trade. These young people are smart, and they're being socialized with English all around them. They would have to live in a cave not to learn it.
So why do I have an outgoing message in Spanish? It's because their parents need it. It's field laborers, maids, people who migrated to this county when they were older who still have a hard time with English. Not because they don't want to learn, mind you -- there are lots of ESL classes that attest to that. It's because after a full day stooped on the strawberry fields it's hard to process a foreign language. It's because they have children they have to feed, it's because their brain at 25 or 30 or 40 is not what it used to be when they were 15.
So how exactly does this offend you? And by the way, did I mention my outgoing message is BILINGUAL?