Sunday, March 2, 2014


So many times I've come across people saying "learn English or get out." They talk about how their ancestors learned English right away upon arrival, despite many, many research articles proving that first generation immigrants learned very little. Not because they didn't want to, but because it is so damn difficult.

I find myself in the opposite position. I'm trying to learn Spanish. I've spent the last 6 years on and off in Mexico (for a year or so at a time, and for now, permanently). I haven't learned nearly enough to survive. I have barely learned enough to conduct a simple conversation. To those who speak no Spanish, I sound great. To those who speak Spanish and don't know me, I sound like an idiot they can't understand. To those who speak Spanish and know me, I sound like I'm trying. I have a good accent... that much I have picked up. I can read in Spanish, and I can take dictation. As to coming up with a response on my own? Maybe if I have several minutes to respond. Even then, I will probably sound like an idiot unless it is in present tense.

However, it goes beyond the language. There's the culture. After all this time, I continue to struggle daily with remembering if it is "Dias", "Tardes", or "Noches" (morning, afternoon/evening, or evening/night... if you just say hello, you are rude to women and hitting on men). I struggle with remembering that I'm supposed to greet EVERYONE I see. Even if they are in the middle of a conversation as I pass them. If not, I'm stuck up. Then again, interrupting them means the same. I struggle with the fact that perfect strangers will often ask my advice on what the best diaper is while standing in line... or, if they don't need to know but notice I am buying diapers, ask how old my child is and/or other personal details that people in the US would never dream of asking a stranger.

I have to be more than. I have to do everything everyone here does, even if it contradicts what they or others would do. And I have to learn more than what they are able to learn themselves. Even if they had lots of money and years of school, I have to learn, minus all the assistance. So yes, I sympathize with the immigrant who struggles with the U.S. language and cultures. Because, it's not that I don't want to or they don't want to. I desperately do. I try daily, and do everything I can to improve. Just as they do daily. But, it will always be slower than what others expect, and in the end, they have already judged them and I. Just as so many others judge those in the beginning or middle of their journey.... Judge not, lest ye be judged.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more. I speak Spanish, but constantly have trouble trying to keep up with all the different cultural aspects of the language. I myself constantly forget to say hello, good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. I live in Monterrey so it is not really necessary here, thank God. However, my husband is from a very small town where they do still do it. My husband and I are in fertility treatment so when we go to buy the fertility meds, I get questiosn about how long I have been trying, what is the fertility problem, etc. My response is rude in their eyes, but this is personal so I tell them that it is too complicated to explain.