A couple of weeks ago a person on Facebook wrote a post that really bothered me. She is a woman who is educated, well traveled, and lives in an English speaking country. I might add she hates Donald Trump and is always bashing him.
She had taken her grandchildren to a restaurant. The server at the restaurant showed her to a table. He was a native Spanish speaker so when he asked her if she liked the table, "Do you like this?" came out as "Do you lik dis?" The woman parodied him and answered "Yes, I lik dat." After the server left, her grandchildren starting laughing and asked her why she said "dat" instead of "that."
This person responded that she was communicating in the same language as the server. She then went on to say that she could speak any language in the world. She parodied French and several other languages (obviously in written form on Facebook,) much to the delight of her grandchildren.
I was appalled and called her on it. I told her that it was very insensitive of her to mock the server. I told her that native Spanish speakers cannot say the TH sound. It is not in their language so it comes out as a D sound. Russians say it with a Z. (I have taught English as a second language for more than 12 years and I know how hard it is for these students to make this sound.)
The woman replied that it was all in good fun. That the server laughed along with her when she imitates him. I doubt he thought it was funny. Did she really expect him to lecture her or tell her to stop? She has the position of power over him. He needs a job. I told her she had no idea how difficult it is for people to learn another language. The older one gets the harder it is. Past the age of 12 it is very difficult to lose your native timbre. Another person on her page talked about helping Spanish speakers prepare for the citizenship test and also made fun of them. What is wrong with these people?
I was furious. This woman does not speak another language. She lives in an English speaking country and English is the only language she knows. She has never left her home country to live in another country where her native language is not spoken. I have, and while I am proud to speak a second language, it was not an easy path, and I am far from perfect.
I have often written how people here in Argentina have made fun of my accent or how I pronounce words. There have been store clerks and salespeople who have pretended not to understand me. I have been told that I need to lose the tone of my native accent. When asked, none of these people spoke a second language. They are as ignorant as this person.
Why do people put different standards on learning a language than to learn anything else? Not everyone can be a virtuoso at piano, or playing tennis, or dancing. Some people start very young and become very accomplished, while others learn later in life and become very adept. Then there are others who are not able to learn a new skill, or never advance past a certain point. This seems to be acceptable.
Why then, is it not acceptable when someone tries to learn a new language to live in a new country? Not everyone can learn a new language, but we expect all immigrants to do so. Not everyone can speak with an excellent accent, yet we expect them to do so. Not everyone can or will become fluent, yet the expectation is that they should after a certain time in their new environment. This is unrealistic. Are these people racist? Or just ignorant and insensitive?
The woman who wrote this post on Facebook is not an American. She lives in another English speaking country. When I told her she was insensitive - she unfriended me. I am better off with one less "friend."
If you are trying to better your English check out and subscribe to my Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9vR1Pzt-ZBoK8P3wYiSWDA or check me out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Inglescondeby/