Every time I go to get a pedicure (yes, men do get pedicures), I’m reminded of one of my pet peeves. In my experience, employees of nail salons are about 99% Vietnamese. Most speak just enough English to determine whether I want them to work on my feet or my hands. Beyond that, it gets pretty iffy.
They love to chat with one another in Vietnamese while they’re working. As a customer, I’m insulted by this. They are saying to me, “You don’t really exist. Just let us get paid for doing your pedicure and don’t try to talk to us.” It’s like they’re telling secrets behind the backs of their customers.
This is an abridgment of common courtesy. Sometimes common courtesy gets trampled in the rush of exercising our rights. At other times, it is ignored because of laziness.
There is nothing in the Constitution of the United States that requires you or anyone else to speak English, but I don’t understand the resistance on the part of many immigrants to learn our language. Most people who immigrate to our country do so in pursuit of better opportunities than they had in their home countries.
I applaud their gumption and willingness to face a whole new country in order to give themselves those opportunities. Why do those same people limit their own access to those opportunities by refusing to speak our language.
If I want to be a banker in an American bank, I need to be able to communicate with the bank’s customers. By and large, they speak English, as do the people I’m hoping will hire me and who will be my bosses if I am hired.
If I want to be a cashier at Wal-Mart, I need to be able to communicate with the store’s customers. By and large, they speak English, as do the people I’m hoping will hire me and who will be my bosses if I am hired.
If I want to be the night clerk in a convenience store, I need to be able to communicate with the store’s customers. By and large, they speak English, as do the people I’m hoping will hire me and who will be my bosses if I am hired.
See a pattern here? Failing or refusing to become fluent in the predominant language of your country of residence hurts your chances of succeeding. It makes no difference whether you’re the CEO of a major corporation or the guy out mowing lawns in the summer heat—you need to communicate with the people you deal with.
We do a disservice to immigrants when we force our businesses and/or state and local governments to provide instructions in languages other than English. This helps these people avoid facing the need to learn English. It helps keep them in poverty-level jobs because they can’t communicate with the establishment.
When I’m omitted from a conversation because you don’t want or don’t know how to speak my language, it is a minor offense to me. It’s a major handicap to you, though, if you can’t communicate with the general population of our country.
Yes, I realize English is a difficult language to learn. We seem to have more exceptions than rules in our grammar, and our spelling frequently makes little sense, even to us natives. But it can be learned. There are on-line courses, CDs, and other venues available. Can’t afford them? Most public school districts offer adult education classes in English as a second language for free. All you have to do is enroll and show up for classes.
You have the right to get tattoos on your body, but if you have tattoos of Satan all over your body, your chances of being hired as pastor of a Christian church will be a bit diminished. You have the right to wear jeans with holes in them and torn t-shirts, but you probably won’t be hired as a maitre’d in an upscale restaurant if you insist on wearing them.
Similarly, you have the right to refuse to speak the language of our nation. But if you do, you will most likely confine yourself to the most menial jobs with the least opportunity.
How do you feel when people whose services you are paying for fail or refuse to communicate in our language? How do you feel about using your tax money to make it easier for people who come to our country to refrain from learning its language, thereby minimizing their chances of getting good jobs and improving their economic lot?
For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tab above.
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Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.