Thursday, January 6, 2011

ESL: Espanol as a Second Language

5 January 2011, 10:05 PM

Or "They Took My Needles"

As I walked through the Mexico City airport, unfamiliar with the process of re-checking in and not knowing the language I thought about people who get the most huffy about things (like call in help lines) being available in Spanish and saying that when people come to the US they should learn the language but that Spanish-speakers don’t want to. I’ve heard from various places all the various reasons that it takes some immigrants longer to learn English (like that they work all the time and have no time to take a class, and can’t afford childcare to take a class because they aren’t making a living wage).

Yesterday in the airport I felt so out of place. I wish I knew Spanish. I’m only here for three weeks and can’t imagine what moving somewhere new, trying to start a life, and not knowing the language is like. I felt stupid. I felt out of place. A lot of my French came back to me (which bodes well for this summer, I hope), but it was of no use to me yesterday. And as I thought about people who complain about various language options I wanted to ask them how much time they’ve spent abroad and how well they would be able to communicate if they moved somewhere else. And I may start doing that.

After I was sent to the right desk, I got my bag checked easy-peasy. I checked in when boarding started, but I was sent to security….and almost cried as I was going through. While I was so, so happy to not be taking my shoes off, they took my knitting needles away. I bought those needles last spring, and I’ve been working on a scarf that’s going to be beautiful. When my bag kept being shuffled about I knew they were looking for my needles.

I pulled the one that didn’t have any stitches on it off and the security person saw and felt that it was plastic...and then talked to a supervisor who said “no mas!” Then the first woman pulled the other needle out, and I haven’t even looked to see what the stitches are doing. So news flash: plastic knitting needles can fly in the US, but not in Mexico. I cursed in my head and was not very compassionate. If I spoke spanish I would’ve likely been cursing outside my head.

All this time, though I’m also checking my watch. Before I left at first, Stefanie had texted that her flight might be delayed, and I had no idea if she was going to make our connection.

1 comment:

  1. I'm reminded of a joke I was told by a French teacher in high school.
    -What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual
    -What do you call someone who speaks more than two languages? Multilingual
    -What do you call someone who speaks one language? American

    Learning languages other than your own is important for many reasons, including it deepens our understanding of how our own works.