Thursday, July 25, 2013

This Video is very typical of conversations I have had in Miami. By Geniusofdespair



I have had conversations like the one in this video many times. People walk up to me and talk away in Spanish sometimes for a few minutes, never asking me if I speak Spanish. A well-dressed 40-something lady in a hospital interrupted me filling out a form and spoke to me for about 3 minutes. I listened intently for a time and finally said: "I don't speak Spanish." She actually got mad at me for her faux pas of making a wrong assumption. The lady in the hospital said, in perfect English, "Why didn't you say you didn't speak Spanish?" Duh. Why didn't you ask me first?

When I lived in Puerto Rico the first thing I said to a stranger was: "Do you speak English?" It was polite to ask, not to just assume they did.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

When my daughter was little she was dancing in a show and the woman taking care of the little dancers gave instructions in Spanish. When my daughter told her "I don't know Spanish." the woman actually yelled and her and told her that she should learn it!!!! A six year old! Of course the woman didn't know English,but that was okay. Needless to say, I pulled her from that dance studio, but no apology ever came from Maria Vedeja, nor my money back for costumes that I paid for that my daughter never received. Parents, beware!

Anonymous said...

I do understand spanish, however, I do a bad job of speaking it. I can recall many instances where people speak to me in Spanish and I will answer in English. That is not necessarily what they want or expect.

There isn't an easy solution. The younger kids don't speak either language well, and the Hispanic elders are content to only to speak to the folks that sound like them.

The one thing that confuses me is the fact if I moved somewhere that another language was the national language, I would be struggling, but I would get a working knowledge of it. Yet, it seems that here nationally, there is a obstinate refusal to join into our English speaking nation. I do not think it good for us as a country.

Anonymous said...

64% of Miami Dade county is Hispanic. You are in the minority. Get off your high horse and adapt.

Geniusofdespair said...

I did adapt when in Puerto Rico. Putz. I ask the same courtesy here that I gave residents there.

Anonymous said...

Last anonymous: Fuck you. This is America not Cuba. Go back to Cuba if you want to be spoken to in Spanish.

Geniusofdespair said...

Hey. I don't want to start a war here. Does anyone agree or disagree that it is polite to ASK if someone speaks a foreign language BEFORE conversing in that language? Be civil.

Anonymous said...

That. anonymous obviously was never taught manners. He had better never leave Miami. No one would tolerate his behavior elsewhere.

Maria said...

It is not sitting on a "high horse" to expect people to be polite. Also, the woman on the phone in the video was not respectful of the man's time.

Anonymous said...

Luckily I have a simple cure for such situations, I answer in my old world dialect. You'd be surprised how fast this abuelas and recent arrivals scratch together some gringo language if it's important to them. Works like a charm. haven't encountered one yet that answered me in my dialect :-)

Geniusofdespair said...

You are obviously demented bringing up the KKK. I erased your stupid comment. Why can't we talk about language without starting a war?

Anonymous said...

I made the first comment. I am also a teacher. All teachers have to take TESOL courses. We learn how difficult it is to come to a country and not speak the language. We are taught to respect these people and help the children as they pass through our classrooms. I urged my children to learn Spanish. I even get mad when street signs come in only one language and I sit behind someone in traffic that doesn't understand what the sign says. What I don't understand is how some Spanish people in Miami get mad at the English speaker if he or she doesn't understand Spanish. I love the Spanish speaker that at least tries to communicate with me in my broken Spanish and their broken English. To me, that's the Miami I love.

Geniusofdespair said...

Good comment. Thanks...

Anonymous said...

I have lived in Miami so long this doesn't even bother me any more, it's become a part of my environment. Sometimes I feel left out though when I am in an elevator at work, and I am hearing everyone around me speaking in Spanish, and the other day I was at my local publix deli ordering a dinner and the woman taking my order spoke NO English. Oh well. I like the Latins and the excitement they bring to this town. You take the bad with the good. I wish I had taken Spanish instead of French in school up north.

Thomas Hastings said...

I love your blog but this entire thread is unnecessary and counter-productive. If you truly love and understand Miami that you cannot be surprised that this situation occurs. People are rude in every culture and if you really think gringos are less rude in other countries than you really must get away more often or look more closely when you are away. I challenge ANYONE that actually speaks more than one language, particularly those that learned a new language later in life, to comment on how easy it is to survive in a new place with a different language. I have done it. It is really really hard. Final comments -- 2nd generation immigrants (ie, those born in this country) learn English at almost exactly the same rates as any immigrant groups in this country's history. So all those who think this generation's hispanic immigrants are different, please check your history and stop acting like the xenophobic natives that hated the german/irish/italian/chinese group that was entering the country at that moment in time.

Thomas Hastings said...

Just watched the video... douche baggery is a great title for this video -- what an absolute douche this jerk is. "Oh my gosh, can you believe it: people call in SPANISH and try to sell you something!! Can you believe it?? Don't they know in AMURICA we speak AMURICAN??!!!"

Tom Not As Hasty said...

Tom until you have spoken to a Chinese telemarketer you will never get it. This whole concept to speak Spanish first is a pet peeve of mine '. You might not care but I do . To each his own.

Anonymous said...

LEARN IT, LOVE IT, LIVE IT to those that are capable....
CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA AS REVISED IN 1968 AND SUBSEQUENTLY AMENDED ARTICLE II GENERAL PROVISIONS
SECTION 9. English is the official language of Florida.—
(a) English is the official language of the State of Florida.
(b) The legislature shall have the power to enforce this section by appropriate legislation.
History.—Proposed by Initiative Petition filed with the Secretary of State August 8, 1988; adopted 1988.
http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=Constitution&Submenu=3#A2S09

Anonymous said...

HISPANICS ARE IN THE MINORITY IN THE REST OF FLORIDA AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLEASE GET OFF YOU JACKASS AND ADAPT....
Black or African American alone, 2012
16.6% FLA 13.1% USA

Hispanic or Latino, 2012
23.2% FLA 16.9% USA

White alone, not Hispanic or Latino, 2012
57.0% FLA 63.0% USA

Anonymous said...

I am writing from the north of Spain. I am actually embarrassed by my fellow tourists who expect everyone to speak English. Most Spaniards do, but not so much in the little tapas bars and cafes. It is amazing how many expect American coffee to be served! The worst offense is when people express surprise to see that everyone in the northern provinces of Spain is fair skinned, blond and blue eyed. This one particular couple in our group was expecting dark-skinned people..... And said it out loud.

Moral of the story: we all have to read more, get out more and learn that the world is filled with much diversity. Oh, and learning better manners wouldn't hurt.

Thomas Hastings said...

I have lived as an expat in an English-speaking country, in a Catalan / Spanish (Castellano) region (where I knew Castellano but not Catalan), and in China, where I tried but mostly failed to learn the language. EVERY CULTURE AND SOCIETY IS DIFFERENT -- do we really want to make Miami, one of the true melting pots in this nation of (alleged) melting pots, a place where non-English speakers are not accepted? Get off YOUR a** and learn another language, and adapt to the reality of S. Florida in 2013, not 1953 or northern florida of right now. My God, every time a new group of people moves into the country the people that are already here complain about how "different" and "lazy" and "they don't assimilate" and "why can't they just learn English" blah blah blah. Can you not see that? Break the pattern of xenophobia and remember HOW and WHY this country was founded (although of course the founding fathers had their own xenophobic ideas -- so I guess it's just an Amurican tradition??).

Geniusofdespair said...

The topic was TO ASK IF SOMEONE SPEAKS YOUR LANGUAGE. TO BE POLITE AND NOT ASSUME.


WHERE ARE YOU ALL COMING UP WITH THIS STUPID STUFF?

Anonymous said...

Once a kid was lecturing me that I should be proud of my heritage because he thought I look Latin therefore I should speak Spanish to him, I don't speak Spanish nor am I Hispanic, a lot of people would have felt annoyed or insulted by his naive comments but it didn't bother me because in reality Miami is a very cosmopolitan town and some people get confused and this is a well worth price to pay to live in this crazy paradise. Only if we could get Latinos to vote for their best interest instead of ethnicity. I have news for you Miami is getting a lot more diverse and only smart voting is going to make us and ignorant voters will break us.

Anonymous said...

I think the one poster is wrong with Florida saying English is the official language. My problem is living in Hialeah (North Havana) and not speaking Spanish. How did they become citizens without speaking english. You can vote in spanish/Creole. Something is wrong with the system.

Anonymous said...

As an immigrant myself I think it's common courtesy to learn the language. I find it very disrespectful not to even try.
I knew very little English when I first arrived (and my first language isn't Spanish) so it might have been easier for me, I had no other option.

Anonymous said...

I shop and when they address me in another language, I politely state "1am sorry, I don't understand Spanish." I recently went into a national shoe store chain in cutler bay to buy hose. The young girl working there had to go get her manager to have her translate from my English into Spanish ... I was polite and patient but how can there not be a standard for hiring?

A smile goes a long way, I am encouraged to use my broken spanish when the try to use English .

miaexile said...

I lived in Puerto Rico as a kid and and learned Spanish there. I lived in Germany as an adult and took German while I was there but far from mastered it. I lived in France as an adult and regret not taking classes. I've traveled to over 60 countries and the first thing I do is learn how to say in the local language the basics And..do you speak English? The one thing I have noticed, in Paris, is they seemed to get annoyed when I would ask if they spoke English...so I changed it up a bit and would say my greetings in French and then launch inTo English, slowly..the Parisians seemed to like that better. I love the fact that Miami has forced me to dust off my Spanish! And yes miss manners, the polite thing is to ask and not assume...but geezus this IS Miami after all and it's a good day when you aren't mugged,murdered,crashed into, runoff I95 or implode with frustration at,well just about everything here having to do with humanity or local government ineptitude.

Geniusofdespair said...

Sometimes it is just the little stuff.

Anonymous said...

When someone at a store as in example 2 above addresses me in Spanish I never say " I am sorry, I don't understand Spanish." I always say "I'm sorry, don't you speak English?"

I think the burden should be on the person who goes to a place where they speak a different language to learn that language.

I do think though that it is important for everyone to learn a 2nd or even a 3rd language.

Oh, and I did learn Spanish and will talk to the store clerk in it, but as is (I think) the premise of the original post, the clerk shouldn't just assume that I know it.

Anonymous said...

Not too long ago I remember tutoring migrant worker children to speak English. When their parents came to pick them up, they didn't speak English. They smiled, were polite, and I would kind of make signals like their child did good, then their child would do a translation to Spanish (I'm assuming correctly). I used very basic English words when speaking to the parents, words I knew the child had already learned to send a message to their parents. They were grateful and happy. It was very simple to me at the time. Learning a second language isn't easier when we get older but it isn't impossible. What's happened since my English tutoring days, is that we've allowed a 2nd language to dominate the market place. I would mainly blame merchandisers looking to sell products starting the trend, and here we are now. It's very sad on a whole bunch of levels because we have no incentive to teach English to Spanish speakers and they have no incentive to learn because of this cycle, which now includes all levels of the media. However, for those who want to climb the success ladder in the United States, outside of Miami or other mainly Hispanic dominated places, English is recognized world wide, even in the Air. It would be to the benefit of those who don't speak English to learn it, even if it's just basic. A little show of understanding our language or at least willing to learn it goes a long way in the polite column. I too, as understanding as I am, am so tired of pushing 1 for English in my own country. I'm tired of so many having attempting to have a full fledged conversation with me in Spanish, while speaking to me, when never asking if I speak Spanish 1st! It's very old and very wrong.