Press 1 for …

Since I speak a creole originally from an island nation, I have an angle.

I took French in grades 7 and 8. My first teacher was Madame Volkenharrrrrrrrrrrrrr who spoke Frahnsh with a combination of rolled Rs and glottal stops. I can still count in French and curse a little but my seventh grade average was a C. I attained Ds the next year.

Sensing a bad trend, I switched to Latin in ninth grade.

That seemed like a wise choice. My mother took four years of Latin. My grandfather and grandmother took four years of Latin. You have to start in grade 9 to fit in four years of Latin. I really really wanted to do that.

My second year French teacher also taught first year Latin.

Uh oh.

Yeppers, I earned Ds in Latin.

Sensing a bad trend, I switched to Spanish in tenth grade.

Aced it. Senora Reagan even called me “Querido Ricardo” in my yearbook. Wrote a nice note there. I think she wished me good luck.

Spanish is a vital language in home life, business, culture and politics in South Puffin and even up north around Miami in the United States. The Miami Herald reports that “one might expect a good report card there when it comes to the quality of the Spanish being spoken.” But the reality that educators and linguists face every day is “an atrocious Spanglish”; they want to clean it up.

I have a better idea. Why don’t the Spanish speakers just learn English?

My friend Nola “Fanny” Guay bridled at that. “There’s no shame in pidgin languages and they help foster a sense of tribal belonging and community among those. It also fosters separateness, which is probably why ‘mericans and educators/linguists want to clean it up. Preferably they’d foster belonging to the fuller community,” she said.

Nope. The paper reported it correctly as Spanglish. Pidgin is a more simplified language that traders construct from pieces of their common languages plus some new words like finiptitude they make up to fill in the gaps. Most people learn a pidgin as a second or third language as they need it. The South Florida Spanglish, on the other hand, incorrectly uses actual Spanish words plus Spanish-sounding English cognates; they end up speaking badly, adopting bad habits from the shared tongue, and trying to keep what-they-think-is-Spanish as the master language.

So why don’t the Spanish speakers just learn good English?

“‘zackly,” Ms. Guay said. “It’s okay to have your own lingo. It’s better to know what the rest of the people around you are speaking, and to communicate with them clearly. Useful, you know.”

Perhaps those educators and linguists feel guilty about English dominance and want to further fragment American society. After all, America grew strong because people could love a country that accepted them and taught them its language and customs.

I called English a creole. Old English grew first as a pidgin as the islands assimilated the Iron Age Picts, Angles and Saxons and Gaels and Danes and Romans. It became a creole language when a generation of English children learned it as their first language and later became a mother tongue in its own right. It is still the most adaptable of languages, free to accept words and rules from other tongues.

And now we have to Press 1 to speak it.

I’m perfectly happy doing business with you in this country if your robotic auto-attend asks me politely to Press 1 for Spanish or French or Moonese. As long as the default selection is English.

2 thoughts on “Press 1 for …

  1. I don’t mind pressing 1 for English if it shuts up the robot offering all other choices.

    I never thought of Old English as potentially being a creole assembled from the Romanized Gaelic tongue spoken in Britain when the Anglo-Saxons arrived because the boat people had a general tendency to kill everyone rather than assimilate. I don’t know of any British words that survived. But why not. And then there was a more noticeable merging a few centuries later when their descendants wound up tilling and serving for their Norman overlords, when the in the yard became bœuf on the table.

    But anyway. Seems to me an “atrocious Spanglish” indicates a weak linguistic market for Spanish and that good business English would be a better bet for the students. But a lot of things seem to me that don’t seem so to everyone else.

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