Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Can You Hablar?

As I was sitting on the parking shuttle bus yesterday at BWI, I overheard the bus driver talking to an obviously Spanish-speaking man who was using the typical American-abroad approach to communication – just say it over and over again, louder each time. The bus driver continued to say over and over, louder each time, "I don’t understand what you are asking."

I approached the man in Spanish and saw his face relax. I do appreciate that frustration of knowing exactly what you are trying to ask and seeing it fall on uncomprehending ears. We quickly established that he simply wanted to know the easiest way to get to downtown DC. I advised him to take the MARC train and showed him where to find the shuttle.

The bus driver thanked me for intervening and we headed for the satellite parking lot.

My main source of Spanish practice these days comes from speaking to Morena, the woman who cleans my office. She takes a short break in my office most afternoons, when we often deal with scheduling her home repairs or bulk trash pick-up – anything that requires English skills. I play her liaison and she brings me tamales and pupusas. Believe me, I am the winner here because she is a fantastic cook.

Spanish is definitely the second language of the US today. In fact, there are stores in my area of Northern Virginia where you hear nothing but Spanish. But until it becomes a dual language, as French is in Quebec, there will continue to be times when my modest Spanish ability comes in handy.


Blogger Velvet said...

Yup. Nothing I hate more than when some loony redneck refuses to learn the language because "everyone should speak English in America." Ugh. I know someone who was told she had to learn Spanish to get ahead in her job, and her husband said "over my dead body."


3:29 PM  

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