Crossing the language barrier

I’m sure this scene is familiar: while shopping in Walmart, there is a group of Hispanics speaking Spanish, and you can’t understand them at all.

So, do you get angry and ask yourself why they are in America if they can’t even speak English? You’re not alone if you do – I’m sure most people would say something along the same lines.

Isn’t freedom of speech one of the fundamentals of our country, though? It is possible that the people in the store just moved to the United States and don’t know English yet. Or maybe they just feel more comfortable talking in their own language.

For those of you who are getting angry while reading this, I want you to take something into consideration: What if you were in their shoes? How would you feel if you moved to a new country and still did not know the language? Are you going to remain quiet when you’re in public because you don’t want to offend anyone?

Really, that isn’t fair. Why should someone be prevented from talking in their native tongue? I know that if I went to another country, I would want to be able to speak my language without being ridiculed, and I would want people to be accepting of my difficulties in their language.

In all honesty, people in other countries would most likely be much more accommodating than we Americans are. What it amounts to is that people in America are xenophobic — they are afraid of foreigners taking over the country.

For all of you xenophobes out there, I have news. Spanish, or any other language for that matter, is not taking over America. In fact, immigrants are learning English faster than any of your ancestors did.

Some of the people who moved here in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries never learned English at all. For example, my great-grandmother spoke nothing but Swedish even though she lived in America for over 30 years. People weren’t expected to learn English back then, so why should they be rushed now?

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t learn English at all – I’m just saying that they should be allowed to speak their own language, too. And maybe people should stop expecting them to learn English the minute they move here.

Sometimes I think we all need to be reminded that, in this country, we’re all foreigners. America is supposed to be a melting pot, so how about we live up to our name and accept the cultures around us instead of wanting them to conform into one.