Tuesday, October 27, 2009

welcome to America, now speak English...

... the above seems to be the pervasive thought when we are asked to "please press one for English".

Admittedly, I have had my moments. In the past I have even been challenged for not speaking Spanish. I always resented the assumption that I should know it because my last name was Fernandez.

Yet, here I am at thirty four years of age reconsidering my previous attitude and deciding once and for all that I am going to learn Spanish. What prompted this "unpatriotic" decision?

I had a patient who could speak no English, an elderly person in critical care who needed total assistance. They could not communicate their needs to the staff. This language barrier was impeding their recovering.

I could not help but think of my Abuelita. She speaks perfect English and has done so since she came to the United States in her mid-twenties. All four of her children speak English and were required to do so at home. As she has gotten older and started to mentally deteriorate she communicates alternating between the two languages. Eventually she will forget the English she spent the majority of her life time using.

If she were to be hospitalized will she be treated as an ignorant immigrant because she can't articulate her needs in English?

I can't hold on to these preconceived stereotypes when every day a new experience challenges me to look beyond them. The more I think I have things figured out the more I realize I have a lot to learn.

25 comments:

Thom Curnutte said...

Me encanta.

Angela M. said...

I used to have a prejudice against a certain ethnic group but after I came back to the Church I began to see how very wrong that is. God is good.

Curtis said...

You could've just said some Latin with a Mexican accent and hoped for the best.

"Possumne te adjuvare, Domina?" or something like that.

eulogos said...

I had an experience where my school German turned a scratching kicking madwoman in her 90's into a sweet and curteous elderly lady.
And all I did was say "Guten Abend,Frau X, Ich heisse Susan" and she sat up, extended her hand, and said "Guten Abend, Ich heisse Louisa X." At one point she whispered conspiratorially to me "Weiss du, wo wer sind?" (Do you know where we are?) I answered "Im dem krankenhaus" (In the hospital.) She hit her head with the side of her hand, saying "Jetzt ich verstehe!" (Now I understand!)
After that she was the nicest person and eventually she spoke English to us which was better than her German. But when she was sick and dehydrated, she had just lost her ability to comprehend what was going on.
Also,if there are mistakes in my German, sorry, it is school German from 1965-68, quite a while ago.

My grandfather reverted to Dutch in his old age, and my father did the same, briefly, before he lost the ability to speak at all.

Anything you can learn which will help communicate with people is a good thing. You aren't in nursing to judge how they have used their lives up to then, whether it is whether they learned English or why they have liver failure or HIV.
Susan Peterson

Baron Korf said...

My feelings about English extend to government and official correspondence. Beyond that multilingual is cool with me. (If I ever conquer the world, or at least a healthy portion of Europe, I'm going to make the official language Italian. Not that I speak it, but it's so fun to listen to!)

I'm teaching confirmation this year and one of the requirements is that the kids have to recite the creed to me. Well one is the son of immigrants, speaks english fine, but only goes to the Spanish-Language mass (they go as a family, can't knock that) we have. I was stumped for a bit and then picked up a prayer book that had the creed in spanish and I was able to follow along. That convinced me that if I am going to keep teaching cathechism I'll need to learn spanish, at least here in Texas. That or Vietnamese.

Baron Korf said...

Also, my in-laws are Cajun. So I need to learn French too. They talk about me in French when they don't want me to understand. They like me, so I don't worry. ;)

So many languages, so little time. At least French, Spanish, and Italian are all related. It gets more difficult when you leave the language family.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Cat: I think your reasons for learning Spanish out of a desire to be able to help those in need of care is an admirable one. No apologies!

Pablo said...

The Holy Rosary.

It is available to download in Spanish, for free.

It is the Traditional recitation of the Rosary.

Your Spanish speaking clients would probably appreciate it very much.

I have been looking for different translations of the Rosary to post them also.

I gave a woman a Rosary once, and before I could show her the prayers, her husband had a heart attack. She told me she clutched the Rosary and just made up some prayers. We have been praying the Lord grant us care givers that love Him, and will help those in times of desparate need.

If you like, I will send you some Cds of the Rosary for you to give to your clients. Free of charge.

Language is not important; go before the Blessed Sacrament as often as you can, and let God's light shine through you.

Santa María de Guadalupe Esperanza nuestra, salva nuestra patria y conserva nuestra Fe.

*

Mark Scott Abeln said...

Catholic empires were always polyglot. It wasn't until about the French Revolution that folks got the stupid idea that everybody in the same country must speak the same language.

Multilingualism is very Catholic!

NanB said...

I saw a sales person wanted sign in Italy a while back; the person had to speak English, German and Spanish (and of course Italian). It would do us a lot of good to learn another language.

RJW said...

Go for it. I have never regreted learning Spanish. I think it is a great reason to learn it. My niece is in nursing school and signs fairly well. She finds that to be quite useful as well.

Diego said...

Ánimo con la nueva empresa.

Nada te turbe, nada te espante todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda, la paciencia todo lo alcanza,
quien a Dios tiene nada le falta sólo Dios basta.

Phillip, Andrea, Ivy, and Violet said...

I grew up in a Spanish speaking home, but I agree with Baron Korf on government and business. We have to have a common language for the everyday stuff just for the practicality of it. But speaking Spanish (and a couple other languages) has made life so much easier for me, and was even the reason I was promoted at work (back in the days before mommy-hood). Plus you get to do good deeds for others who don't speak english and save the day once in a while.

Good luck with your endeavors!

Joe (defend-us-in-battle.blogspot.com) said...

You know, I read this post at work, and had to call a VERY difficult lady. (I work as a judicial law clerk). No one likes talking with her because she is "CRAZY."

You inspired me to treat EACH person I deal with like you wanted to treat your patient. (Combine your post with the fact my dad has been in ICU for the past month 4200 miles away from me).

Anways, because of my job I can't say much or answer questions with "parties" because I work directly for the judge. So I essentially had to let this lady VENT on the phone and then explain that I couldnt "advise or answer her questions" but then painstakingly explained what I had to, with much more patience than I normally would have.

So thank you for our post. I won't discuss the specifics of what you said, but you reset in my mind the fact that in my vocation peoples "lives" are also at stake and that I need to treat them with moral care and responsibility.

PLS said...

I work at an inner city Catholic School (very Hispanic) and have resolved to learn Spanish as well. Mainly so I can understand what the little runts are whispering about! Thanks for the blog btw.

Lvka said...

non entiendo sus palavras, chica; abla en espanol, por favor!

Dymphna said...

Don't feel too bad. The last time I was in the hosptal it seemed like the night nurses spoke everything but English. Oddly enough the Jamaican nurses were the hardest to get any help from.

Lola said...

My dh, Lazlo, speaks Spanish Un Piquito to help his patients.

He's also picked up quite a bit of American sign language.

The patients really do appreciate it.

Janny said...

I don't mind us learning other languages in order to do our jobs better. I even think it would benefit most of us to be bilingual, or trilingual, or as many languages as we could manage.

HOWEVER...you make a point of your Abuelita having learned English and insisted on her family learning it. This was the proper attitude to have--just as if I ever went to a foreign land, I would never in a MILLION years expect those people to address me in English. I would make it my business to learn the language of the land. Period. That's a small price to pay for the courtesy that country extends to you of allowing you to immigrate from somewhere else and make a new life.

Yes, we should try to meet people where they are. But what many of us object to, and RIGHTLY, is the idea that that courtesy doesn't go both ways--the notion that we, as an English-speaking country, are somehow obligated to translate everything into Spanish now. No, we're NOT...any more than we were obligated for the French, Poles, Germans, Irish, Lithuanians, Filipinos, or anyone else who's come over in the last 100 years. When Americans do that in foreign lands, they're called "ugly Americans." Why doesn't is work the same way when the shoe is on the other foot?

I know there are exceptions. I know there are these instances in which people will lapse into a "mother tongue" when they're older, and/or infirm, or whatever. But many people now don't even bother to learn, or TRY to learn, and I don't believe there's a single thing "Catholic" about coddling those folks and making our country functionally bilingual for them. That, to put it bluntly, is a slap in the face to all the other immigrants who did what they had to do to get by in their new country, and I'm ashamed that my country--and, to a great extent, the leaders of my Church--can't see that behavior for how insulting it truly is.

JB

Thom Curnutte said...

Hey JB-- how much Choctaw or Cherokee do you speak? How about Ojibwa?



This land was multi-lingual long before white people showed up.

The PsychoMachia said...

THANK YOU! I felt the same way,til I meditated seriously and realized that, we are far more educated than most mexicans,as far as I know(dont hurt me here)isnt it easier for our children to learn than a 50 year old lady from mexico?or a child from mexico with an inadequate education? just one,humble thought.-me,the girl,not my husband,just FYI

The PsychoMachia said...

of course,in attendum to the above, this would be fine:to leave English the first language and spanish be the"known second"..but like everything else,they wont draw the line,because they cannot know how without the perspective of logic,not to mention-white people will be the minority in one generation.culture of death rearing its ugly head,and, of course no race is better than another,but its sad when any race is extinguished.Sad too that we(white people)have bought the lie of birth control/aborting ourselves right out of existence so much that now it is our very existence in question.

Steve said...

Not going to comment on the last comment above; I'm resisting the temptation to do so.

Just wanted to say cool post, Crescat. God bless you.

Joseph said...

I just want to give a +1 to Thom Curnutte.

Augustine said...

I have to say that because, as a Brazilian, thus from the only country in Latin America whose language is Portuguese, I've taken exception to Spanish after so many would ask me something in Spanish after knowing that I was Brazilian, although I dabble in Spanish too.

However, after seeing the Catholic Hispanic community hungry for catechesis and many being snatched by the Pentecostals, I've been going out of my way to establish a rapport with them in my parish by trying to speak Spanish to them and taking part at the Spanish Masses.