Obama or not Obama, is NOT the right question
Below post started out as a comment in response to a blog post over at my friend Murder of Ravens. Since it got too long, I am choosing to post my opinion on my own blog, very aware that this is not the usual type of post I’d write on this platform. But it’s a matter dear to my heart and therefore in a round about way shall be allowed on Spasmicallyperfect.
I strongly suggest you go over and read this post before continuing here, so that the following lines can be taken in context.
Sorry, have to give my five cents worth regarding your Obama comment. Like any statements taken out of a larger context, it is very difficult to assess someone or someone’s capability on two sentences like that. But if I had to, here’s what I’d think.
For me, that would be a reason to vote for him, and here’s why.
a) He’s not saying immigrants should not learn English
b) He’s not saying English isn’t America’s language and that it shouldn’t remain that way
c) He’s not even talking about what is taught in school.
He IS saying that
1) rather than focusing so much on what you cannot control and deferring responsibility think about what you CAN do.
After all, rather than just complain how foreigners don’t learn English, think about whether if given the choice, you’d rather speak English or Spanish should you ever end up in Mexico, whether you’d prefer to have Mexicans accuse you of disrespecting them by not learning quickly enough, well enough, plain simple sucking at speaking Spanish or whether you’d appreciate your new neighbour, colleague, customer, sales person, law enforcement officer help you learn Spanish, take you to a local cultural event, invite you over for dinner and be honestly interested in where you came from, what you miss, what you are struggling with.
2) rather than have others understand you, try and understand others, you may be surprised at the similarities and common goals
3) rather than make everybody else speak English, why not extend the courtesy and make an honest attempt and put yourself in the adapter position for once.
The first step in creating a relationship and resolving conflict (longterm) is communication.
My own ‘mother tongue’ (forgive me Mum) is spoken by 6 million people worldwide of which 95% reside in Switzerland. This compared to an estimated current world population of 6,680 million people. If I wanted to interact with anybody outside of my country or anybody from outside coming into my country, I had no choice but to not speak my language.
English speaking people nowadays don’t know what that feels like unless they travel to (or lets be daring have to live in) a country that’s either big enough not to have to rely on other countries or to a remote area where the local residents don’t have to, don’t learn to speak anything else. How many places can the English / American travel to, expecting to get by with maybe a few words like ‘una cerveza por favor’, ‘gracias’ and ‘donde esta la playa?’ compared to a Swiss German? Why, because you can. Because you are fortunate to be born English speaking.
Fortunate in that regard but unfortunate because you fail to understand what it feels like not to born into an English speaking country. Unfortunate because you don’t realise how much effort it takes to deliver what you already take for granted, English as a global language. Unfortunate because you don’t really understand what other nations and their people are saying, because you’ve only heard the English translations of what they believe in, how they feel, what their hopes and fears are.
Unless you learn another language, not just how to conjugate it and spell it, but understand when to say ‘te quiero’ and when to use ‘te amo’, how are you ever going to know who you are interacting with? We misunderstand each other speaking the same language, consider how difficult it is to misunderstand when one is translating and the other has no clue about languages.
Yes, wars aren’t started because of a lack of language skills, but wars are started due to a lack of willingness to understand the other side.
So, if I were American and had to base my decision on those two sentences only, that’s why I’d be voting for Obama. Because he has understood that keeping America safe and American is not done by worrying about immigrants learning English but by working with friends rather than against enemies. And that the first step towards that is learning Spanish.
P.S. I have traveled the world quite a bit and in my experience the number of English speaking emigrants abroad that have chosen to learn and live the local language is small. In France most can’t even order a meal in a restaurant fully in French despite having lived in the country for over 15 years, in Spain they expect government forms to be printed in English because the local Anglo-mob justifies it by the number of local non-Spanish residents who have ‘bought’ their way into the country, in Switzerland American CEOs expect their meetings to be held in English, since it’s the global language and it’s easier to have a whole company learn English rather than him learn German.
So anybody who says to me ‘If I were living in another country, I’d be learning and speaking Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi you name it’, is full of crap unless he/she is a language aficionado. Yes you’d try but you’d go the path of least resistance. And unless you couldn’t stand your fellow country(wo)men or married into a local family, you’d be much more comfortable interacting with ‘your’ people, you’d find a job at an Anglo company, you’d join Anglo Associations, you’d subscribe to an English paper, order English Satellite TV. Why? Because you can. Because your ancestors weren’t willing to adapt to the countries they settled in.