2nd language: an advantage and a liability

Being fluent in more than one language has many advantages, as most intelligent people will acknowledge. Sometimes the advantages are more subtle that most imagine.

Being fluent in more than one language has many advantages, as most intelligent people will acknowledge. Sometimes the advantages are more subtle that most imagine.

Several times I have called large corporations and taken advantage of their "Para español presione el 1" (for Spanish press 1). It seems that the waiting time on the Spanish phone queue is shorter than the English one. So, it pays to know español. I am now routinely pressing the Spanish key. I love it.

Other times it pays off to play like we don't even speak English. Some members of our family answer telemarketers with a heavy Spanish accent saying "missy no home, missy no home." Works well, effective, and good for a laugh.

Even when I get the annoying call offering me a short course to "learn english" or even better yet "air conditioning repair" I still get a laugh. It is the most silly form of profiling that's out there. Look at the name, if it is one of the top 10 most common latino last names, then they must not speak English. I find these calls annoying but humurous.

However, speaking a 2nd language can be a liability. I just got a call from Esteban. When I answered and he said "Manuel!" in a clean Spanish pronunciation, I took my defense down. A friend calling? I thought. I answered in Spanish ¿Quién habla? Quickly I realized it was someone asking for money. Oh no, the advantage is lost now. Tele marketers calling in Spanish, "que mierda."

But in today's call, something bugged me. I found it somewhat offensive; the group calling is one that wants nothing to do with us Hispanics. It is ironic, that for most endeavors, we are invisible in the state. Hispanics, most people assume, are all immigrants here to steal jobs.

Spanish as a second language? Heressy! Many kids pick French as a foreign language in high school, in a form of cultural snobbery that is hard to understand. Speak American, you are in America! Say some, not realizing that America is a continent and that most people in that continent speak Español.

But, when it comes to the good old way of life in the USA, the dollar is king. So, it is no surprise to have telemarketers now targeting latinos to collect money. I can imagine them saying... if I can coerce more "pesos americanos" into my pocket, then ¡Buenos días a usted, señor!

Posted on 11/15/2008

 

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