Williams 1

Dinah Williams

Prof. Mequette Sorenson

Eths 2430

Mexican-American Culture

29 May 2011

Language Barriers

Let’s Talk

There are as many different opinions on this subject as there are different cultures! I found this subject absolutely fascinating and was completely engaged in this project. As part of my research I decided to search the World Wide Web and see what kinds of feedback I would get. I did a bing search on Spanish vs. English and was surprised by one site titled “Why do Mexican nationals hate when Mexican-Americans can’t speak Spanish.” (

This wasn’t an article written by anybody in particular, it was just a question that invited individuals to comment on it. So this is not some documented social study, just opinions of random people, which can be a valuable tool in assessing the situation.

One person wrote “you said it: it’s because they are nationalists. They believe that these people of Mexican families must speak Spanish, have loyalty to Mexico, and wave the Mexican flag. They are arrogant people. It’s like they want their own culture to overshadow the American Culture.”

Now some of the people on this subject gave their heritage or ethnicity, but this person didn’t. I am presuming this person must not have been of Hispanic origin because of the terminology used. “they-their.”

At first I thought he must be one of “those” people who oppose anyone not speaking English, however to be fair he also said “by the way, that whole “Mexican-American” thing is stupid! They are Americans period!” Which I think is a very astute statement. This has nothing to do with culture. Keep your culture, but when you become an American citizen, we all – everyone – should be treated the same.

This comment regarding this question of “Why do Mexican nationalists hate when Mexican Americans can’t speak Spanish?” said, “they (Mexican nationalists) hate it for the same reasons that we (Americans) hate it when Mexican-Americans can’t speak English.”

Here are more comments on this issue, “Hispanics are racist against their own people, and”some feel“they are dishonoring their heritage by not remaining true to their roots. These people are being pulled in every direction. It seems to me they can’t win for losing at times.

There must be a balance somewhere. The issue of language is tricky, and the path must be tread lightly. I can not speak for the Mexicans because I am not one. I am a gringa’s gringa. I was born and raised in the United States, and this is all I know, for right now. I will always be a U.S. citizen first and foremost. I love my country. However, I also love the Hispanic people, and I have never disdained them or their language.

To make someone feel less than anyone else because you don’t understand their language to me is sheer ignorance on your part.

We do live in a country that speaks primarily English, and when someone immigrates here, I think they should learn the language for their own benefit. An immigrant doesn’t have to lose their own language to live here or give up their culture to live here, but learning the language of the country you moved to and now call home makes you smarter than the average Joe.

If someone moves here and doesn’t speak the language, how are you supposed to get a good job? How are you supposed to get a good education? What about medical care, dental care, grocery shopping, clothes shopping?

When people cannot communicate they tend to stay in small groups, it limits them in their ability to do anything outside their group. Eventually, they will need to branch out to find good jobs, land, get a good education, and more. People of all such groups have the same problem, the same barriers, and fear of the unknown is a big one. If a person learns to communicate with another group, that person can expand their horizons, learn new things, better ways of doing things maybe.

When I move Mexico, learning Spanish would be wise and prudent. It wouldn’t be easy for someone to take advantage of me if I knew the language. I would be able to get directions to where I am going. I also believe it is a sign of respect for this new land that I am moving to. I also would be more inclined to have my children and grandchildren learn this new language so they would feel more comfortable and would not feel so much like strangers, and so they would be able to communicate with the locals, make new friends, and not to be afraid to try new things.

There is no shame in not knowing a language, and you really do not have to give up your native language or culture when you gain a new language and learn a new culture. Knowing this new language gives you power, it gives you the ability to move between two worlds. This ability gives you the edge. But here is the thing; English is the language of commerce worldwide. All countries use English in big business. Learning more than one language will always be an asset.

In my research for this project I came across some wonderful programs to help immigrants to acclimate to their new country and gain a good grasp of the English language. One such resource I found was the West Valley City Government website that has information in both English and Spanish, listing classes for parents and children, ranging in costs from free and up, but none are very expensive.

There is a also the Latin American Chamber of Commerce site that is full of excellent information that can be accessed through the WVC website and is written in Spanish and English. (

There was a group from Centro de la Familia that came to our class and presented their work to us. Centro de la Familia serves the Latino community to “develop educational opportunities that empower Latinos to reach their potential-economically, socially and politically.” Centro is here to help these individuals to become self-sufficient and contribute back to their communities. They have bilingual educators, social workers and trained volunteers to help Latinos learn life skills that promote this self-sufficiency. This group is dedicated and caring. They also love to explain more fully what they do and how you can get involved if you so desire. (

When going over the strategy portion of my project I came across some wonderful ideas that can be put to use, because I know that what works for one person may not work for someone else. The first program was about two-way Immersion Education. A school in Stanford, Calif. began this program as an educational model for acquiring two languages while doing regular school work. The goals of the Two-Way program are: bilingual proficiency and literacy in two languages, academic performance at or above grade level in both languages, high levels of self-esteem and positive cross-cultural attitudes. (

Fresno Covenant Foundation has a van that was revamped as a traveling classroom and they deal in five areas. 1) Tutoring Program (Reading Pals) helps children learn to read 2) Parent Involvement: Provide practical help for parents whose children are struggling in school. 3) Early Childhood Education: help parents prepare their young children to start school 4) Health: teach families how to incorporate healthy habits into their lifestyles and 5) College Prep for High-School Students. This group provides all workshops in the parents’ native languages. To learn more about this program they can be reached at this website. (

Here is another article that really caught my attention in an unexpected way. The article was written by Barbara Mulhern titled “Training Non-English Speaking Workers on Risk Management.” The statistics are staggering, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 11,303 Hispanic workers died as a result of work-related injuries from 1992 through 2006. These deaths accounted for approximately 13 percent of all work-related injury deaths during that period. Miguel Castro a human resources manager says, “Regarding Hispanic workers, he believes they are hard workers, but they don’t always take the time to realize that they need to do the job quick but also do it safe.” The problem? Language barriers. Castro says Communication Is Key. Castro also believes that the biggest problem is the Hispanics are not being trained adequately due to language barriers and that is the problem at the supervisory level. His solution was to hire bilingual personal to train the staff and the workers. Very forward thinking. You can read more about this training in my project folder listed under 2d Strategies. (

For this project I also interviewed two people who are involved in trying to close the Language Barrier. The first was Lydia Gonzales from Salt Lake Community College. Lydia is the head of the ESL Lab. Ms. Gonzales says there are two types of immigrants, the first come and want to become part of the American culture and learn the language, the second type just comes- not to learn and not to become a part of this society. The first group usually is already education oriented and driven to succeed.

Ms. Gonzales also states that it is usually the first generation immigrants that work,usually holding down two jobs each and too busy, tired or afraid to learn the new language, so they give their children the opportunity to go to school and to learn the new language. The second generation is usually bilingual with English being their primary language. They can speak Spanish but can’t generally read or write it as well as their parents. The third generation is usually English only, which creates problems because now they can’t communicate with their grandparents without a translator.

Ms. Gonzales also says that immigrants feel in the corner and ignorant because they can no longer communicate freely. Some of these immigrants are well educated doctors, lawyers, teachers and such, but when they immigrate to the U.S. they either have to go back to school to relearn their trades or find new jobs. Lydia mentioned that at our college we have a janitor who was a lawyer in his own country but because he is older and doesn’t speak our language he can’t get a good job. Lydia tutors him before and after his shifts.

The second interview was with Victor Ochoa, originally from Peru, he is the advisor at the American One English Schools. I asked him what he considered was the main problem in regards to the language barrier, and his answer was that a lot of the people don’t want to invest in education. Mr. Ochoa also stated that our own government was a problem by helping people to become lazy. Immigrants come here can’t find work get involved in the welfare program, food stamps, free medical, etc. Why go to work when all this is provided for them? Another area of resistance, or a drawback, is Mexican’s strong cultural ties, they don’t want to become part of the American Culture, possibly afraid of losing their own, or possibly it is seen as disloyalty.

I asked Mr. Ochoa where he learned English and he said he learned it in Peru. He said the LDS church has a program for the young people in other countries to help educate them and teach them English. The church asks how much your tuition will be and the church will loan you 70% of your tuition which you pay after you graduate, you have to come up with the other 30%. Mr. Ochoa says you value things more if it costs you something to get it. The school has a plaque that reads “Education and effort are the keys to success” this is his motto. The cost of this program depends on the number of days and hours you attend. His school teaches total immersion in the English language from day one. This was a place I would not mind working and training at in the future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up for this class. I wanted to learn about Mexican-American culture, and I did. I came into the class with the idea of teaching English to non-English speaking peoples, but was still a little hesitant about it and maybe a little arrogant. I found out that I can use my life experiences to empathize with non-English speaking peoples. Compassion and kindness, patience and understanding, are what I am taking away from this class. I feel that I can now go on with my studies with fresh desire and purpose, less hesitancy and a lot less arrogance. I also learned that there are a lot of ways to help bridge the Language Barrier. Get Involved. Thank you, Mequette.