Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why I Don't Speak Spanish

People tell me all the time “You really oughta learn Spanish. It would really help you out.” And, yes, if I wanted to concede defeat to Spanish-only speakers and attempt to assimilate into their culture instead of the other way around, I would probably make more of an effort to speak it. As anyone who knows me is well aware, I speak pretty passable Spanish. When I am in a Spanish speaking country, out of respect for their native culture, I will bust it out readily. Also, if I need it to get on a highly rated Spanish-language TV show. Otherwise, I expect people who move to America to learn English. So I will not make life any easier for them by speaking to them in their native tongue.

It is the same approach I take to environmental concerns. Think Globally, Act Locally. So I recycle, conserve energy when I can, return my hangars to the dry cleaners and donate old clothes to charity. Does my behavior change the world? Not individually, but each person must do what they can to not contribute to an overall problem. So while I understand that my not speaking Spanish in America will not force immigrants to learn the language, I also understand it is one thing I can do to help solve a problem that really irritates me.

Those of you who tell me there is nothing you can do to fight the dominance of Latin culture in South Florida are wrong. There are things you can do as an individual. If more Americans, and I’m not just talking about white people but blacks and assimilated Hispanics too, refused to speak Spanish then people would be forced to learn. Am I going all Tom Tancredo and trying to force large-scale governmental change? No. In a city whose two mayors are named Alvarez and Diaz that is certainly a losing battle. (Although I guarantee if no government services were available in any language other than English it would go a long way to forcing people to learn). But I am doing all that one man can do.

It is a small effort it a probably losing battle, but much like telling one who does not like a particular TV show to simply shut it off rather than write their congressman, I am shutting off Spanish. I am exercising my freedom to not speak to anyone in a language other than English. This is not an immigration issue, but a language issue. Legal, illegal or otherwise, being able to communicate with those already here should be a prerequisite for anyone wanting to enter the country. So I am thinking globally and acting locally. Maybe some of you should do the same.

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At 7:03 PM, Blogger aikin said...

I've tried to learn what I can since I've been here, just to make my life easier. It's a hassle sometimes just trying to get a cup of coffee when the person at the counter doesn't speak English.

The greatest thing is a girl I used to work with who looks Latin and has a Latin last name, but does not speak a word of Spanish - and gets pissed when people ask why!

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Yvette said...

WD, good for you! Because I look Hispanic, apparently, sometimes people here get all bent out of shape when I don't speak Spanish. It would actually be easy for me to learn, but I refuse to. If I wanted to live in a Spanish-speaking country, I'd have moved to one, intead of having moved here.

I'm also notorious for making places like Home Depot remove signs that are written in Spanish, unless there is also an equivalent sign in English...

At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Fluent in Native Tongue said...

If I must speak Spanish in Miami, I insist on following it up with the English version, just to make the point that I still expect the f*cking ingrates to learn.

Por exemplo, "Da me un cafe con leche", spoken with an American accent, is almost always responded to with "Que?"

"Give me a damned coffee with milk, you illiterate f*ck. What, you didn't like it in your own language? Or you're just shocked that I took away your planned excuse for not serving me due to your inability to comprehend my request, but in reality based solely on the fact that you don't want to take your lazy ass to the back fridge to get some fresh milk."

The extra English words, of course, are thrown in solely for purposes of the recipient's education.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger jc said...

I'm hispanic and I speak Spanish and I still speak to almost everyone in spanish ( I kinda feel sorry for the little old ladies, though ).

Fuck em, my family learned English, let them learn too.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger jc said...

woops, i mean i speak to everyone in english

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up in Miami, I have learned my share of Spanish but refuse to use it for the reasons you mentioned, WD.
When the cashier at the store tells me how much I owe in Spanish, she is met with a blank stare and the words "I don't understand you. Speak to me in English" Sure, I could just hand over the $12.45 but I'm not going to.
The fact that I have good, secret, knowledge of the language also helps in a lot of situations. Like when the new employee made fun of me, the gringo boss. Can you say "unemployment" en espanol?

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait so you move to a place where you know that people only speak a certain language and then you get mad about it.

You are definitely a genius. No wonder you got into Columbia.

At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't you write about this before?

You are a one trick pony and the trick is really shitty.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger JayOfToday said...

Although I'm a functional spanish-speakers living in Miami, it does get a little tiring having to speak Spanish as much as I do. But, in the end, Spanish will never take over and anyone who thinks that it will is just nuts. Just look at how many people were worried that German was going to become the official language in the late 18 and early 1900s when there was a flood of German-speaking immigrants into this country... and that never ended up happening.

But, there are 2 things that really get my goat:

1. Latinos that come up to me, the whitest man alive, and start speaking to me in Spanish, assuming that if I live in Miami that I must speak Spanish. No "hablas espanol?". No "excuse me... do you speak Spanish?".

2. The Miami accent (i.e. a Spanish accent): I work with a few people here in Miami who speak English with an accent but when I asked them where they were born, they say Miami. The accent totally sounds like they were born in South America but moved to the US at the age of 12. But, nope... they are native sons! One of them said that they didn't have an American-born English teacher in school until they got to high school.

Don't think that I'm a latino hater... I'm married to a latina who hates it when people come up to her in Miami and automatically starts speaking Spanish.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger White Dade said...

Aikin - Better to make life a hassle for them, I say

Yvette - Wow. You even one-upped me!

Fluent - I tend to have a pretty goosd Spanishaccent, but expecially at work I love gringoizing their names when they ask for their tabs back. 'What was that name? Jim-in-ez? Okay." Stop calling me "Mett" and we'll work on it.

JC - Good for you

Anon - The best is when they think you don't know what they're saying, then you tell them you understand in Spanish. I've had that happen the other way aorund too.

Anon2 - Would you say the same about Hispanics who move here knowing we speak English?

Anon3 - I have mentioned it. This is a full-on explanation.

J O day - I HATE the Miami accent. it is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I have met a good many educated, assimialted Cubans and such who do not have it. It screams of lack of education and cladd. Kind of like the Newyorican accent.

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No but they don't write whiny ass blogs about how nobody speaks whatever their native language is. Also you have the option to move anywhere yet you choose to move to an immigrant enclave and then complain about it constantly. They move there because it is easier to go about day to day life because they can communicate properly. Why don't you follow suite and stop being such a whiny pansy?

At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hispanic's not a race dude, there are White and Black Hispanics. Second of all, most Americans of Hispanic descent are English dominant by at least the third century. I do agree with you though, why can't these people (immigrants, not all people of Hispanic descent are immigrants) learn English? Even in places where Spanish has traditionally dominated in this country, most of the population as been bi-lingual. Oh yeah, and to Aikin, is it? No single living person has a latin last name. Latin and Spanish are not the same language, God, you people are idiots. But, I agree, immigrants should make an effort to at least learn English, it would help them greatly.

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We fought the wars to win this country. They didn't so they should be respectful and learn ENGLISH. If I went over to their country and demanded them to speak to me in English, they would have a fit. So, they can suck it!

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahora los norteamericanos entienden como se sienten las demás nacionalidades del mundo. Se lo juro que los turistas norteamericanos siempre hacen lo mismo al extranjero. En la Argentina, en Francia- siempre hablan en inglés directamente y ni siquiera preguntan si hablan inglés. Es exactamente lo mismo.

At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now we Americans can understand how the rest of the world feels. I swear American tourists do the same thing when they're in foreign countries. I always see Americans in Argentina and France break into English and arrogantly assume the Argentines/French should respond in English, without even asking if they speak English first. Granted, they don't reside in the country, but it's essentially the same thing on a global scale.

At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Xenophobia, much?

If you don't like Miami, move. I'm so sick of Americans whining because businesses cater to Hispanics in a city that is at least 70% Hispanic.

I'm also disgusted by your suggestion that English should be a prerequisite to move to America. Some of these immigrants are REFUGEES. Some of them are so poor they have nothing to eat in their native land, and you expect them to find the resources to learn English?

It's hilarious how Americans have more resources than any other country to learn foreign languages, yet they refuse to. It's like they're afraid of education.

My mother came to this country, struggling to pay for food, and she had a college degree. One day she was dealing with a client (after she got her pharmacy license) and he told her,"I want to speak to the pharmacist." She said,"I am the pharmacist." He replied,"No you're not, you're Hispanic." As though Hispanics are incapable of receiving an education.

Some of these Americans make me ashamed to call myself one.

At 10:17 PM, Blogger alejandro said...

Just a few facts, from my point of view:
1. I you want to live in the US, speak English... not perfectly, but try your best. Bottom line. Otherwise, go away.
2. USAmericans can't expect the above if what "anonimous" said is right as can be... USAmericans are IGNORANTS, petulants and offensive when abroad. They come right at you speaking in English and expecting everyone to answer in English too. You're loud and disrespectful with other peoples cultures, in the US and outside. THAT'S why the French hate you (among many others).
3. To the IDIOT who said "We fought the wars to win this country. They didn't so they should be respectful and learn ENGLISH."... don't be a douche bag... latinos (and others) have fought in every single US war since the first big one. Read some more you ignorant prick. Have you ever been to any of the wall memorials ? they're FULL of spanish lastnames. And if by any chance you refer to the Indian wars... those where no wars at all...

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

quit fucking complaining...all of you


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