“Everyone who comes to America should learn to speak English.” If I only had a nickel for every time I heard this idealistic statement. This statement might work in a perfect world, but our world is far from perfect.
My interest in learning the Spanish language began several years ago. My husband and I were involved with all aspects of traffic safety and received a government grant to open a bilingual traffic safety education site for Spanish speaking immigrants; many who are driving cars without a license, etc. Our hopes were to make our community safer for both English and Spanish speaking residents. Sadly, the plans had to be scrapped when our supervisor resigned from his job due to an unrelated matter.
My husband plans to retire in a few years and we are thinking of going into the traffic safety field part time with this same mission in mind. Once again, we are making the effort to become fluent in Spanish.
Our local library provided the Rosetta Stone program on-line for residents to use at home at their convenience. Languages offered included English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian, German, etc. It is a fantastic program requiring no translation. It shows images with spoken and written language, much the same way we learned to talk as preschool children. Unfortunately, the Rosetta Stone Company cancelled our library’s on-line subscription service.
Our library is now providing us with Mango also a multi-language program. This program does not use images but focuses more on grammar, much like a child’s early years in elementary school. Having used both programs, I find they actually complement each other. Hopefully, our library will continue to provide the community with this service. It could get costly for residents if we had to buy these programs on our own. Some of the poorer residents might be forced to stop learning a second language altogether if this happened.
My biggest inspiration for reviewing Spanish occurred a few months ago while accompanying my husband to the doctor’s office for a procedure requiring anesthesia. There was a Spanish man there for the same reason as my husband. This man spoke no English and had no English speaking relative or friend with him during this particular visit.
After his procedure, he could not understand why he could not drive back to work. The doctor’s Spanish was more limited than mine, so I intervened and told this patient, “No va en el coche hoy.” Maybe not grammatically correct Spanish but I made him understand he could not drive for the rest of the day. His look of gratitude gave me new energy to continue learning this language.
As far as I am concerned, Spanish immigrants are the new kids on the block in this country, doing many jobs English speaking citizens will no longer do. Yes I believe these immigrants should be legalized, but this is not going to happen unless we can understand each other and establish some trust. Only then will there be a chance of smooth transition.
Learning a foreign language is easier for some than others. For those of us able to do this, let us step up to the plate and learn. The world is not perfect and life is unfair. But a little “Understanding” can alleviate a lot of misconception and anger.