What's wrong with speaking Spanish?

People are getting into trouble for speaking Spanish these days.

At a hotel in New Mexico (of all places) the owner, Larry Whitten, ordered his employees to stop speaking Spanish and to Anglicize their names. And the owner fired some employees who refused to conform to his rules, according to an Associated Press story.

And in Dallas, a police officer recently issued a ticket to a woman for being a "non-English speaking driver." Officer Gary Bromley stopped Ernestina Mondragon after she allegedly made a u-turn in a school zone, according to a story by CBS 11 / TXA 21. Then he gave her a ticket for not speaking English.

¿Están locos?

Are they crazy?

Now I think we all should speak at least two languages or more. You can make more money and have better career opportunities if you speak more than one language.

But we shouldn't punish people who are monolingual. That includes people who speak only Spanish or only English.
I agree that it would benefit all immigrants to learn English but it isn't always possible to learn a second language. It depends on your education level and on your memory. Most studies show it's much easier to learn a language when you are younger.

It makes no sense to enforce English-only rules in New Mexico with its rich indigenous, Spanish and Mexican history. And unless there is a legitimate business reason to do so such  actions could be illegal.

If we were to follow the hotel owner's logic then we should change all the foreign words we use in English.

What if Santa Fe became Saint Faith or Los Angeles became The Angels?

We could go on translating all words into English commonly used in the United States that come from Spanish, French, Italian or other languages.

Would it make sense to say with gratings instead of au gratin or French loaf  instead of baguette? Baguette just has a nicer ring to it.

Strangely enough one of the defenders of the hotel owner is CNN's Rick Sanchez. He agreed that the hotel owner should have ordered his employees to Anglicize their name, as reported on News Busters.

"My real name is Ricardo Leon Sanchez de Reinaldo. I don't use it because I want to be respectful of this wonderful country that allowed us as Hispanics to come here, and I think it's easier if someone's able to understand me by Anglicizing my name," Sanchez said.

Sanchez should go to New Mexico and ask people about his notion of thanking "this wonderful country that allowed us as Hispanics to come here." In New Mexico, Hispanics were there before the Anglos and the Native Americans were there first.

Now I'm not going to tell Sanchez how to pronounce his name. That's his prerogative. But he and the hotel owner have no right to tell me how to pronounce mine.

I don't pronounce it TER-EE-SA but prefer to roll the R's so it sounds like TER-RE-SA.

That's my choice and in this country no hotel owner or police officer should punish people who speak Spanish.

A court had the sense to dismiss the ticket against Mondragon for not speaking English.

Hopefully people like Whitten also will start to use some common sense.

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  • Is there video of Rick saying this? I wish he would tweet in Spanish.

  • In reply to FernandoDiaz:

    Why! Keep it in English!

  • In reply to FernandoDiaz:

    When my grandfather came here from Italy no one taught him English. If you didn't know the language too bad. They should speak English in American society. If they want to speak Spanish speak it at home. I think it's ignorant not to speak the language where you live. If I move to Mexico are they going to change everything for me in English? No. If they don't like to speak English then go back where you came from. They sure know how to get on welfare, collect food stamps and cheat the governement.

  • In reply to kaustin:

    The thing I find most interesting about these discussions is that the racists just can't help but reveal themselves.

  • In reply to JimmyGreenfield:

    Ain't that the truth.

  • In reply to JimmyGreenfield:

    Great post, Teresa.

    Our country is supposed to be founded on the idea that people have the freedom to live their lives the way they want - regardless of race, country of origin, income, religion, language. Now, it doesn't always work that way. It's difficult to give everyone the same equal opportunity. But giving people the freedom to be who they are - that's simple.

    My grandfather immigrated here from Poland. He learned to read well in English, but he could never speak it very well. He still was a very intelligent man and contributed to society. But if he had been stopped by that cop, he would have gotten a ticket.

    It's like a tax on people who don't speak the language. What a load of crap.

    Also, not being a Spanish speaker myself, I can't roll my R's. I try to fake it when I say your name, but it never comes out well. Sorry about that. You're awesome, though. Great post!

  • In reply to JimmyGreenfield:

    Here's a thought: I don't care what language you speak. I simply want to be understood and to understand you. I'm willing, able and competent to do what I can on my end to fulfill my two needs in this respect. If I want to be understood by people who speak another language than my own, or to understand them in return, I must either learn that language or employ a translator.

    That's the basic truth of the situation.

    What I'm reading above has to do with indignation toward people who use any language other than English in the presence of or when directly addressing English-only speakers. Furthermore, much of the downright hostility expressed toward people who use other languages seems to be about freely speaking your mother tongue on American soil.

    Quite frankly, I don't understand xenophobia and I never have. To other people it just comes naturally, I guess.

    My people were immigrants, too. They didn't clamor to learn American English because they wanted to "live the American dream" etc. They learned English because they were exploited otherwise, their children were attacked in the streets for speaking pigeon and they weren't going to get a decent job otherwise. If anyone wants to romanticize that experience as something noble and uplifting, they're living a fantasy.

  • In reply to kaustin:

    Hi Teresa

    I think there would not have been such an uproar if the hotel staff would have been more culturally diverse. If there would have been some Russians, Chinese, Indians (east), etc, and they also were asked to shorten/familarize their names or speak English when he was around, claims of racism would have been unfounded. Chinese Americans do exactly that in the workplace, and still have a rich culture at home. The Italian Americans at the turn of the 20th century did exactly that.

    You do know the reason he asked for English only when around him, don't you? It was because they were belligerent and called him a white (N-word).

    This whole incident reminds me of Professor Gates. The Boston cop was just doing his job, and he was pummeled with accusations of racism. Whitten was applying a formula that worked in the past, and didn't realize there were cultural radicals in Taos who would take any action that could remotely be construed as racist and label it as such.

    These former employees seem to have been running the show on their terms, and as such the hotel was in deep trouble. Someone comes in with admittedly military-style approach, and try something outside the box they go ballistic.

    Thanks for your blog comments, but you really should be more aware of the facts, even the one's that made the widely read news. To selectively discuss only half the picture does no one any good.

  • In reply to DrBobNM:

    People don't care about facts when its more fun to throw allegations of racism around.

  • In reply to DrBobNM:

    Sounds like someone is making up stories to cover his ass. There is no such thing as a "White (N-word)" in Spanish. There are slurs for each group, but not one that combines them as you describe because that's an American construct.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    @MrBrownThumb

    "..."White (N-word)"..."

    it is Gringo. I'm sure you have heard of it.

    anyway, the staff was used to doing it their way, and they didn't like having a real boss impose his will on them. They were nasty, and fundamentally the real racists (as was Professor Gates) and hence their reaction. BTW, last I heard they were thinking of suing him.

  • In reply to DrBobNM:

    Bwahaha! Gringo is nothing like "White (N-word)." That's so ridiculous. I'm sure he was probably called a gringo or a gabacho or some other offensive term, but to liken them to "White (N-word)" is stupid.

    I hope those workers take every penny the man has. He sounds like a humongous douche what with all the name calling he's done in the media.

  • In reply to DrBobNM:

    There is nothing wrong with speaking Spanish, Polish, Italian, or any other language. When I was born in America and have to push one to speak English, it makes me wonder. After all I am in America so why do I have to push one to speak English?

  • Honey please! Are you going to be long on that Sopa Box! Who are you to tell and US Citizens to learn a diffrent language! Duh, while growing up it was almost vital to learn such languages as German, French and now it is important to learn language from competing contries. Just because Spanish people are too damn lazy to learn English! People like you have every excuse in the book! I speak German, English and currently learning Chinese. I have no desire to learn Spanish!! It's not like we are competing with Latin America or Mexico globally when it comes to Tech or Engineers jobs ! I mean come on! And for that women who received the ticket, she speaks english! Trust me she speaks english! Her and her attorney are trying to milk the system!

  • In reply to OhioGirl71:

    OhioGirl - Before criticizing people for not knowing English, please double check your comments for errors; the correct wording should have been "She and her attorney are trying to milk the system!"

    If the DMV gives its written tests in other languages, I think it's perfectly fine to be driving without knowing English. She really did nothing wrong - except for the offense which the officer originally cited her, and that is what she should have been ticketed for, not for speaking a different language. If a person takes the driving test in their native language, because the officials at the DMV made it available to them, then there is nothing wrong with driving without being an English speaker, and it is NOT "milking the system."

  • In reply to Hawkstar77:

    Oh! excuse my brevity! She IS milking the System!! She did do something wrong, Illegal U-Turn near a school! Dallas apologized! Move on and learn the language! Silly to be a grown adult and have to depend on your children to get you thru life...Sad existence!

  • In reply to OhioGirl71:

    Actually, the way the hotel owner acted WAS illegal. Federal labor laws prohibit discrimination on several bases including language. The law only allows some exceptions where language barriers can affect health/safety, certainly not the case in the insistence on anglicizing names. As a community we need to be better informed of the law, this would make it easier to protect our rights.

  • In reply to OhioGirl71:

    "Sopa Box?"

    Soup doesn't come in boxes, silly. It comes in cans!

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    I think she is referring to the old idiom "Get off your soap box" which means "stop preaching at me"

  • In reply to ginalock:

    Yes, I know. I was making fun of someone who wants people to learn English while she can't be bothered to learn to spell the language.

    Mmmkay?

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    The 2 situations described in the article are just plain silly.

    But there is a reason those involved took action, and I don't believe it's racist.

    If I decided to move to France, I would learn some French before I moved and I would immerse myself in French studies. I would not expect all Frenchmen to understand my English. I would not expect signs, government programs and services to be offered in an English language version. That is what we have in America today. In Illinois, you can walk into the Secretary of State's office and get a copy of Rules of the Road in English, Spanish or Polish. This is insane. While the shape and color of signs have meanings we can all learn, there is benefit to learning the language spoken by 90% of the population. Printing publications and offering services in any language other than English says to non-English speakers "You don't need to learn English, ever. We'll provide you with any government service and speak to you in your own language." Where does it stop?
    When immigrants came to the U.S. in the 1800s to 1900s, most of them saw the U.S. as the land of opportunity. And they wanted believed their children would have a better life and better education. While they spoke their native tongue in their neighborhoods, they only felt it logical that they would have to learn at least some English to communicate with Americans.

    I feel many Hispanics feel that they do not have to make a special effort to learn English. That is selfish. How much money could cities, states and feds save if they did not have to provide services in other languages? If Hispanics had to learn English to get by, most of them would. If they understood spoken and written English, they could be better informed citizens. And maybe, just maybe, they would not face as much "racism" because they would demonstrate to Americans by their actions that they are making an effort to assimilate. But since we provide services in Spanish, Hispanics don't have to assimilate.

    It is perhaps timely that an article recently appeared in the NY Times. Titled, "Hispanic Immigrants' Children Fall Behind Peers Early, Study Finds," It says Hispanic immigrant children begin on par with American children, but by age 2 they begin to lag in linguistic and cognitive skills. They point out several reasons for this, but the one that struck me was that the mothers of children who lag behind do not encourage learning English. You can read the entire article by clicking on this link http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/us/21latina.html?emc=eta1

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    What about Waukegan, Illinois, where teachers are being forced out of their job because they cannot speak Spanish? Has CNN covered this? Is it unfair when an American citizen is forced out of a position because they do not speak Spanish in a heavily Hispanic area? Or is it only unfair when it happens to Hispanics in New Mexico? Reverse discrimination is not acceptable. It is a sad day in this country when people are going to lose their job because they can only speak the language of the founding fathers of this country.

    A nation of immigrants can only come together under one language and our American culture. There has to be a way to unify people instead of keeping them apart because they cannot communicate with each other. Look at the history of other countries where people do not assimilate and unify through a common language and culture. You will usually end up with a lot of dissent, dissatisfaction and possibly a civil war.

    If we have to cater and pander to people who speak Spanish, what about other languages? Is it fair to other immigrants who do not speak Spanish? Perhaps all of our signs and products in the store should be labeled with 20 different languages. Where does it stop?

    When people come to the United States they should embrace our lifestyle and culture. You should want to become an American. Part of that would be to learn English. If they do not want to assimilate and become an American they can always go back to their own country and happily speak their native language.

  • Well put Montie. I completely agree with you, that everyone should be required to know how to read the driving signs wherever they are. Many places on the written test when they ask what the sign means don't have wording on the signs, just a picture of say... a red octagon, and you're supposed to know that means stop.

    All that said, she should have been ticketed for not obeying the sign - whether or not she could read it - NOT for speaking Spanish. That may go completely against what I've said previously, but a law is a law, and my grandparents who immigrated from Mexico and Spain would agree.

  • I see nothing wrong with english-speaking americans learning a 2nd, 3rd, etc languages. I see nothing wrong with immigrants coming to America and not knowing english. But it is widely known that we speak english in America. Now let's take all the various languages that immigrants speak that come to America...which should I have to learn? Where I live there are lots of Russians, Bulgarians, Poles and other eastern europeans...should I learn one of their languages? Where I work there are quite a few poles, should I learn polish? Why? They prefer speaking english at work so they can be understood and give me grief when I mention learning polish. Apparently polish is extremely difficult to learn if you weren't born and raised in Poland. There's a national contest to say the phrase 'table with a broken leg'. So now that I'm surrounded by eastern europeans all those years of spanish class in school are worthless. I can roll my r's and properly say Teresa in spanish, but so what? Her argument is silly, at best, because spanish is just one of many languages spoken in America on a daily basis. Should the hotel/motel workers in new mexico have to learn english as a condition of employment? Yes. They should also have to speak english around english-speaking guests. Should they have to anglicize their names? I think that's a little silly, but they should also understand if people have problems pronouncing them. Should the lady in dallas have been ticketed for not speaking english? No, that law is for truck-drivers. Should she be a legal immigrant, with a drivers license and car insurance? Yes Yes and Yes.

  • Wow! What a mouth! You need to come down from your high horse sweety! I think people like you are so full of it! You think you know everything and have an opinion about everything! When do you shut up!How many young Blacks can correctly speak English let alone speak another language! This is not a cheap shot, but a reality! You should be lucky you got the opportunity to learn another language. I think the Latino population is important, but I think a lot of thire resistance is aimed at White America! You need to understand that English is the official language. The last time I checked it was English speakers who got Blacks thru Slavery, Jim Crow (Brown vs Board of Education) Civil Rights (MLK) and lastly, the Constituion is in English! The USA is a biligual contry but we measure true success with learning English. Even the Politicians despite the occasional talking out of the side of their knecks agree, to succeed in the US YOU NEED TO LEARN ENGLISH!! Stop comparing us to other contries (Canada) who speak dual languages, we are not other countries! That's why everyone fights to get in, we are better then the rest! And if you don't think so, then hop back up on that horse and ride off into the SEA SWEETY! You have a typical big mouth!!! Peace! I am done with you girl!

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