Hablando Español - Speaking Spanish - Hablando Ingles - Speaking English
A student of mine told me that while working at Walgreens in Houston, she encounters all sorts of issues about what language she speaks. This is a young woman who immigrated from Mexico, is a successful college student and fluently bi-lingual in English and Spanish.
She says that when a customer arrives, she generally greets them in Spanish (since it is her first language). If that person is not an immigrant (but Latino) they often become angry with her and demand she speak English.
She has tried speaking English to customers and often they become angry because she is not speaking Spanish.
What is the answer?
Last week while my brother was in the hospital, a chaplain told my mother that he thought she spoke really good English. I told the man that my Mom is a 7th generation Texan. Even though her border Spanish is perfect (Spanish is her first language), she ought to speak good English - she is 85 years old and has lived in Texas all her life, graduated from a Texas high school...
It bothered me that he said that, but then, why should it be offensive? Was it because the man was implying that my mother was an immigrant.... and at another level, he was being patronizing.... slightly insulting. He was also showing us that he believed all Latinos are the same.
Why would be insultive to tell someone they speak good English? Why is it patronizing to say imply you believe someone is an immigrant?
Because when a very very American person tells another they speak good English they are probably really saying "You aren't so bad for being a Mexican (or Hispanic).
Funny, when I am in Mexico or another Spanish speaking country and people tell me that my Spanish is good, I am not insulted.... so what's the difference? Maybe its because I am truly learning Spanish. It is my second language. I was not fluent until my 40s. It has taken a lot to learn it and be able to read everything I encounter in Spanish. I can certainly say its one of the best things I ever did. A whole world of reading is now available to me. Professionally it has also made my research so much more thorough... now that I am writing about Guadalupe and the Jews, I can read what the academics in Mexico and Spain say about the Jews and the Conversos, and the Inquisition....