Language in the Community
Leslie Quintanar: GALEO Intern
Monday, August 6, 2018
The United States has long been a melting pot of various cultures where people from different backgrounds bring forth their traditions, food, and language. The diversity mounted upon the States has always shined through and encourages more and more people to admire the thriving country.
With that, a growing difference in our society has been the way we communicate with one another, whether it be over the phone, at the grocery store, or at the workplace. While the country welcomes new people every day, the population of non-English speakers increases as well. The importance of bilingualism and multilingualism is at play, and as one of the most progressive societies in the world, the opportunity to integrate a great number of multilingual individuals is more than welcome.
Undoubtedly enough, the Latino population outnumbers any other demographic group living in America. Many are recently immigrated and many only know Spanish. With little to no grasp of the English language, it is easy to see how the stride to communicate can be difficult.
Though we live in a very integrated society, the language barrier between English speakers and Non-English speakers is evident and has yet to dissipate. Because of this divide, it has affected the relationship between the public and service providers such as the police force, for example. Ineffective communication blocks the ability to move forward in a peaceful and smooth manner. The difficulty to understand one another can be gruesome for many who are afraid and nervous, especially when in a dangerous situation, say in a car accident.
Instead of asking non-English speakers to “learn English”, as humans living in a country where our culture is affected by the ones surrounding us, we need to emphasize our ability to adapt, and to take the opportunity to learn a new language. Speaking more than one language has immense and overwhelmingly beneficial benefits not only for our own satisfaction, but it creates a bridge between a society within a society.
In many personal experiences, I’ve noticed the flustered reaction that relatives have explained when encountering an authority figure such as the police. One cannot speak English and the other not Spanish. And unfortunately, there is no room to defend. Judgements are hindered by the inability to effectively communicate, and that needs to change, especially now.
Especially today, the relationship between authority and the public has faltered and has allowed for a lack of trust to take root within our society. By being able to knock down the language barrier, we can make room for positivity and understanding.
We allow for a positive, interactive experience, where not one party nor the other jumps to conclusions or makes hasty decisions that could ultimately impact someone’s life. We allow inclusivity for a Spanish-speakers, German-speakers, and Chinese-speakers who otherwise lack the representation in the English-speaking community.
When the world is changing around us, we must be quick to follow. Our communicative efforts are demonstrated through high school and college courses, but there needs to be that individual push to learn more in depth.
The recruitment for multilingual service members have been on a rise, especially for the business sector of the economy. However, as more and more people begin to vote, there has been an influx in easy access to materials and translations for many who need it. The sector is rather fresh and may not be everywhere in the country, but it does show that we are aware of the cultural change and language diversity that is going on within our population.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only. It is not to be assumed that the opinions are those of GALEO or the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund. For the official position on any issue for GALEO, please contact Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of GALEO at firstname.lastname@example.org.