Different languages, same problem
May. 26, 2006
Question: I grew up in a small Midwestern town that was settled by immigrants
from Germany. My grandfather and grandmother came to the United States. As a
young man, my father got a job in the local bank and many of the recent
immigrants would speak German to him. He decided that they had been in America
long enough to speak English and he would pretend he could not understand them
when they spoke German. I bring this up because I now reside in a senior
citizens apartment complex where many of the staffers are Latino. They all can
speak English, and do so when conversing with the residents. However, they all
return to speaking to their co-workers, in the presence of the residents, in
Spanish. This strikes me as extremely rude.
What do you think?
Catherine: Yes, to speak a language in front of people who don't understand it
is rude. It is easy to understand that they feel more comfortable speaking
Spanish to each other, but to do so in front of non-Spanish speakers breaks
every etiquette rule in the book. My advice to you is to say something politely.
These employees at your apartment are not intending to be rude. They have
probably never thought about how it comes across.
Lily: It is rude. Talk to the manager and bring it to his or her attention.
You may even suggest that the staff put together a "Spanish for Beginners"
class at the complex. You will be teaching them English while they in turn teach
Spanish. This doesn't have to be an Us vs. Them issue.
Danny: We're in a country addicted to political correctness, bicultural
existence and our freedom of speech. Yet diversity these days seems to be
causing more division than our commonalities. These folks are not trying to be
rude. They were just raised thinking this is OK. Saying something might make the
situation more awkward, but what the heck? Share your family history with the
staffers to help make your point, but continue to live your best life.