I was thinking…

A new series where I jot down quick thoughts because I wrote a giant post yesterday and don’t have the time to do another one today.


  • There’s the whole “scare” about “over half the population being Spanish-speaking” or whatever, but I think it ignores that a) the language of the one percent is still English and is likely to remain that way and so if you want to become part of the one percent you’d better speak English and b) as far as I know other countries are still mandating their students learn English.
  • I did that thing where I remembered something I usually don’t think about, namely that Europe is really rather tiny compared to America, and so probably a large part of why they learn so many languages over there is because their neighbors four hours away speak something entirely different from them.  In America, unless you’re along the border with Mexico, four hours away people will still speak English.  We’d be better off trying to learn each others’ dialects.
  • Obviously that doesn’t work as well in a global economy, but think about the languages you had to learn in America.  Latin, if you were a boy, but that was over by the twentieth century; French, if you wanted to be cultured or a diplomat.  And think too about how so many immigrants quashed their native language in an attempt to assimilate and/or show their pride in their new country.  Then English becomes the new language of diplomacy and if everyone speaks it, well, it allows for laziness in foreign-language-learning.
  • We’re also “lucky” that of the two countries with the largest concentration of people, one of them was colonized by the Brits and so the population was more or less forced to learn English.  That’s handy!  /sob
  • Part of me really wishes I had seriously studied linguistics in college, or that I had at least been aware enough of it to take a few more classes on it.  A greater part of me wishes classes didn’t cost so much money.
Categories: random thoughts | Tags: , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “I was thinking…

  1. That’s a ‘scare’? I thought that was something we were aware of, and that’s why we were teaching Spanish in school. Or at least, that’s what I thought until some time passed after college.

    Just to stir the pot, the one percent’s clearly a valid concept, but I wish we had a term less steeped in antagonism.

    • Ha, well, maybe it’s only a regional scare. I mean we’re certainly aware of it; I put scare in quotations to highlight some people’s reaction to it.

      Mmmm. I could’ve said something like “the political and economic elite,” I guess, but then there’s that icky “elite” word in there. Your turn!

  2. So funny, because my first reaction was also “wow, the term one percent has such loaded implications” and then I scrolled down and saw the first comment!

    I WISH I knew Spanish. Also French. And Japanese. But mostly Spanish. And what are people scared of, exactly?! (I mean, I live in NY. You can hear ten languages walking down one block. Water still comes out of the faucet, though.)

    • HA that’s what I get for trying to shorthand my way to the point.

      Me too! On the one hand, I want to take classes, but on the other, I kind of want to learn Mexican Spanish, and idk what they teach in classes. Not that it’s THAT different, but if it’s another like Quebecois vs. French, well…it’s different. And while I can handle American English vs. UK English, I’m already fluent in one and grew up reading the other.

      But oh man like I said this is apparently a regional thing? And also why I used quotation marks. It boils down to I think the fact that a) most places are not nearly so multicultural as NYC/don’t have as long of a history with Mexican immigration, so b) the Spanish-speaking subculture is a subculture (or even a separate, i.e. nonintegrated*, culture) and often a poorer one and thus linked to crime (and not just gangs, but like, driving without a license and crashing into buildings) and then there’s c) that fussy old idea that if you’re going to live in America you ought to know/learn English, and people who don’t or haven’t [even haven’t yet] aren’t really “American” or invested in this country. (The even-more-paranoid extension of this is that they’re HERE and speaking Spanish and clearly they’re trying to turn this into Mexico or something.)

      You know. If you were wondering what the general line of thought seems to be.

      *This I think could especially be seen in churches? Like, the Hispanic ministry at a lot of churches is often practically its own church-within-a-church. It took YEARS to integrate the Hispanic high school Sunday school program with the English-speaking one at my home parish–and, like, we know these kids know English, so there’s no reason not to mix, and it’ll be good for everyone, right? But it’s actually turned out to be a huge undertaking–the kids know English, sure, but getting the adults involved has proved tricky and that’s a problem because the whole machismo subculture means that the teenage boys don’t always take the white teachers seriously. And furthermore if their role models aren’t involved, how/why are they supposed to be invested? And meanwhile it’s not like all the teachers have had cultural sensitivity training/aren’t dealing with prejudices of their own, and…integration is a good thing, but it’s HARD, even when people are really acting towards and desiring success.

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