Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Way It Is

Having now lived in Miami for a couple of months, I have discovered that what a lot of people know about this area is true. You don’t hear a lot of English being spoken here.

And here’s my thought on that – so what?

I can hear the Bubbas now – “This is AMURRICA! We speak ENGLISH here!”

Well yeah, with a decisively ignorant accent.

Look. We are a nation of immigrants. And if you want to really get down to it, the ‘native’ language of this country is whatever the Sioux or Senecas were speaking 400 years ago. English was imported here from, well, England.

Yes you heard me. English is a foreign language.

But it is also what was taught to us as children. It is the accepted form of communicating in this country, and is certainly the dominant language of our nation.

But not in Miami.

And I realize this pisses off a lot of people. Many avoid this area as a result. Which is too bad for them, as this is an entrancing place loaded with local flavor and multiple cultures. Miami isn’t just a city with a bunch of Cubans. There are Venezuelans, Colombians, Brazilians, Puerto Ricans, Virgin Islanders, and so on.

But yet, the ignorant among us want to avoid them and decry their insistence on speaking in their native tongue. And I dare say, it is these same ignorant people who, when traveling to Europe, insist the French or Italians speak English to THEM. After all, we are Americans, and damn, we are full of ourselves. It’s almost as if we are saying, “We are armed to the teeth & can blow your little country back into the Stone Age so don’t tell me I have to learn your language.”

And we wonder why other countries hate us. They love America, but not crazy about the Americans inhabiting it.

But anyway. I took Spanish back in high school. Four years of it. But given that was 35 years ago, obviously I have forgotten much of it. My vocabulary is probably a hundred or so words, but I can fluently state to someone of Hispanic descent, “Yo hablo solamente un poquito de Espanol, porque yo aprendo en la escuela…many years ago.”

They then smile at me and we proceed to have a nice conversation…in English.

Because here is what the Bubbas don’t understand – these people know English too, at least the vast majority of them do, and the ones that don’t, you can still communicate with them.

See, here’s the lesson, kiddies. You can communicate without using words. Verbalizing sounds is but one way to communicate.

So here I am in Miami with very limited Spanish at my disposal, and I can tell you I am not at all at some kind of communicative disadvantage. I get along just find, gracias.

And I can tell you my Spanish vocabulary is, obviously, growing. It is inevitable in a place like Miami. But do I feel irritated by this? Do I feel resentful that I have to try to learn a language in a place where the stars and stripes flap on a flagpole?

Not at all.

And why not?

Because it’s fun. It’s what makes Miami Miami. And it exposes me to new cultures, new activities…not to mention some totally hawt Hispanic babes. And by speaking a little Spanish to them, you know what happens? Their faces light up and they smile.

See, I am more about trying to ingrain myself into the culture of a place instead of dogmatically insisting they conform to me. By having that attitude, new vistas open. And here, with over sixty percent of the population being of Hispanic descent, the city and all its charms open up to me.

But, if you want to insist everyone speaks English, stay in Iowa. Because no matter how many laws are passed, no matter what efforts are instituted to homogenify everyone into only one form of communication, it will never work. They will still speak Spanish in Miami.

And I have no problem with that.