Friday, December 28, 2007

Ban on non-English in the workplace

As I read through the paper this morning, there were a number of articles that had blog-provoking potential, but it was the last one I read in the local section that really stirred me up. There is apparently a discussion taking place to allow a prohibition of foreign languages spoken by employees in the workplace. This is different from a hiring requirement for English fluency, which is legally acceptable. The new ban would allow discrimination/penalty for speaking a language other than English, even in non-work-related conversations. In other words, employees can be penalized for not speaking English while on the clock.

If you didn't guess from my previous political posts, I am completely against such a ban. I think it's ridiculous, especially based on its propaganda line of "the use of other languages threatens the American way" or some such thing. If you want to get me riled up, bring up the "English only" debate and you're sure to get a reaction. A big part of this issue that really gets to me is that most of the people (that's an assumption based on my experiences, so correct me if I'm wrong) who promote this line of thinking are not actually bilingual themselves. In other words, they don't really know what it takes to learn a second language and learn it fully. So there are a whole host of expectations placed on people and those placing the expectations have no idea what it takes to cumplir with them.

I've been studying/speaking/learning Spanish for about 12 years now and I'm bilingual. I can go to any Spanish speaking country and get along fine. I can talk politics, theology, life, love, death, sports, and more and feel at ease. There are some specialized aspects/vocabularies I still struggle with (or have yet to really be exposed to) like car parts or technical medical terminology. But mostly those are areas where I would need additional exposure in English, let alone Spanish. When the need arises, I tend to learn the words I need to know to get along. I use Spanish a good bit of the time. I've lived in Spanish speaking countries with Spanish speaking families, taken Spanish tests, and read Spanish books, and while I am perfectly at ease with the language, I need to be honest and say that I would much rather fill out a government or legal form in ENGLISH because that is my first language. Legal language is tough and I don't want to botch it. Which is to say, that if Spanish were my first language, even being bilingual, I'd want to do the form in Spanish. And as someone who lived abroad and spoke Spanish all the time, it was nice to run into an English speaker and have a break from thinking so hard or to fall into colloquial language that was comfortable for me. In other words, if I had been working and speaking Spanish and then had an English speaking co-worker, I would have appreciated the conversation possibilities.

And in the midst of the debate, I have a really hard time figuring out what the threat is. What is so wrong with people speaking Spanish/Korean/Japanese/Arabic in the workplace?? Are we worried their talking about us? Are we seriously that vain that we don't think these non-English speakers have anything better to talk about than us?!?! Come on.

After I finished the article this morning I tried to figure out what the bill number was so I could write my representatives. Of course it was not listed in the article and was not easy to find on the internet. So I need to do some more searching and will let you know if I find something.

Que tengan buen dia.

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