Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Que?

In a nutshell that was what I was thinking when walking along the beach tonight...

Here was the setting...

It was about 8 PM and me and Brandon and Heather (two of my younger cousins) were going to walk down the beach to where we had found several sea shells earlier in the day when walking back to the hotel following riding the wave runners. So on our walk tonight it was probably about 30 minutes or so before dusk and it was PRIME time for walking the beach...no hot sun beating down on you and the tourists have basically all left the beach to either relax following a long day in the sun or are hitting the streets of the town (as I saw last night). As I quickly noted this was prime time to be on the beach, the natives obviously are more aware of this WONDERFUL time on the beach than I, and so that would explain the many who were out fishing as the sunlight grew old.

So, as the three of us "kiddos" ran along the upper part of the beach (in efforts to avoid getting caught up in the fishing lines of all the natives) we were moving along past one of the older gentlemen who was actually with his wife and a kiddo out fishing (most of the others were just the man out fishing alone). So as I passed this man began rattling off several things in Spanish. I assumed he was talking to his wife or kids or something, so I kept walking, though I was watching them and smiled back at him. As I kept walking I became aware of the fact that he was speaking to me.

Que? I'm thinking on the surface of my brains inner workings, but deeper I'm digging up what will I say to this guy? If I say "Que" I'm just digging myself into a bigger problem because it ain't like if he answers my "what" am I going to 1.) know what he says, or 2.) be able to respond back to him should I happen to know what he is saying. So, digging deep, back into my high school Spanish class days I rattle off the most Spanish I've used all week...

"No hablo Espanol."

Oh how my high school Spanish teacher would be proud! RIIIIIIIIIGHT! That's pathetic!

Well, with my response the man replied (with a smile mind you): This is my country, Mexico. You need to learn to speak Spanish here (and yes, he said it in Spanish and I understood it).

So, if you are like one of the people I told this story to when we got back to the hotel you're thinking, "Whatever! Has he ever been to Texas?!?!! All the Mexicans come there and don't speak English. We have to do everything in two languages in Texas!"

Well, I'm sure when you read that, it came off should more irrate than it was spoken and meant, but I could see this person's perspective; however I still look at my encounter with this gentleman differently.

I think in a sense that man is right. I think in many cases us Americans expect people to meet our standards, our ways. I'm sure for that man, many American tourists come stomping through his land, his home expecting everything to be the way they want it. Expecting everyone they have to interact with to be able to speak English and meet their needs. I know I've had times since being here where I wish the person I was interacting with understood better what I was talking about when I was conversing with them.

You know, ever since coming to Texas I've learned the importance of being bilingual. I have so much respect for my friends (well basically anyone) who is either fluent, or practically there, in two languages, especially if they are English and Spanish.

I took three years of Spanish in high school, but that has been such a while back that not much (as you could tell from my earlier story) has stuck. If you don't use it, you'll lose it (no lie!). And, the fact that I had no strong motivation when I was taking it in high school to care much for remembering it (hispanics are few and far between in Missouri). So here I am in Texas, where I'll most likely spend many of my next years where being bilingual is SUCH an asset.

To those of you who are bilingual, or at least pretty dang good with your Spanish, my hats off to you! That'll always been a characteristic I respect in people!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Being from Texas, most of the bilinguals that I do know are of Hispanic origin and around my age. Rarely have I come across a European American who speaks both English and Spanish. So if I see one who does I think it is awesome. I think that my kids (If I have them) will need to know Spanish since Hispanics are becoming larger is population. However, I see myself respecting those Hispanics that speak English and Spanish equally well. They attempt to acculturate into our society without leaving behind their native roots. Also, my friends who are Hispanics are the leaders in their family and they now have to take care of their parents who don't speak much English. Because of this they do sacrifice much which I was totally unaware of. One of my friends told me that she would like to move away to go to a college of her choise, but then she said that she would never do that because she has to take care of her parents since they lack basic English. That is true dedication to your family I thought. I can see my future kids doing this for me when I get older! HA!. I can hardly speak Spanish and it is becoming increasly common around Texas.

Jill said...

At least you replied to him in Spanish instead of using English. He should have at least respected that.