Language diversity acceptable in the United States population

Violet Guzman-Robles, asst. features editor

My dad has been learning English for his entire life, but still isn’t completely fluent. When my dad met my boyfriend for the first time, it was awkward, and the way my dad said “Nice to meet you, Jon” only made things worse. Rather than saying “Jon,” my father, who expresses his own knowledge very eloquently in Spanish, said some variation of “shun.”

I’ve always known my dad has had some sort of an accent. It’s the first thing you’d notice about him. But until recently, I never realized how thick his accent really was. Sure, when I was little I would tease him about a few words he’d occasionally trip up on, but was it okay to be making fun of my dad when he was literate in two languages and I was not?

My father is quite intelligent, but his heavy Mexican accent could easily throw people off. Often confusing the “u” with an “a” in the word “skunk,” my dad’s intelligence doesn’t exactly show through in English. But beneath the accent is a man that I consider my hero for helping me with my studies and years of a good education. My dad’s intelligence is something the lady who told him to speak English at Walmart couldn’t have ever known.

My dad really didn’t seem to think anything of it from what I could tell and, being significantly younger than I am now, I didn’t bother asking. I remembered him simply grabbing some sliced white bread and moving on. The old lady, along with what seemed to be her daughter, continued to give some dirty looks to my father while he was with two of his young daughters.

I failed to understand why my dad was being bullied by a middle-aged woman with a pixie-cut for asking my stepmom if we had bread at home. I still fail to understand why people are demanding that only English be spoken in this country. This country is known as a melting-pot of many different races, ethnicities, cultures and even languages.

Perhaps the world hasn’t grown more intolerant. Maybe the intolerance has just been captured on camera more and more. Everyday I see viral videos usually depicting white people telling someone to speak English because “we’re in America.” America has no official language.

I prefer speaking in English despite knowing Spanish because, well, it’s my first language. I’m more comfortable. It’s no different with all of those who are bilingual. Many choose to speak in their native language, as I do. That is absolutely no reason to be ridiculed. According to the United States Census Bureau, at least 350 different languages are spoken in American homes. If people can speak their native language at home, then speaking that language in public should be no different.

White people aren’t always the perpetrators of this disgusting intolerance though. One video that went viral caught a woman of Hispanic descent telling another woman speaking Arabic to speak in English. The intolerance of other cultures exists in all societies, especially in our beloved America. Looking back, even I as a child was somewhat intolerant of my dad’s accent. I found it funny. 

Though poking fun at one of my father’s insecurities is not funny, my dad and my boyfriend meeting for the first time was definitely a funny experience. And I’m not sure whether it was because my dad is fluent in two languages or the fact that my boyfriend only knows one. Either way, this is still America at the end of the day and neither of them should be shamed for their knowledge of language (or lack thereof).