American Spanish

Share publishes grocery coupons – we’ve all seen the colorful sheets that arrive in the mailbox.  As I dutifully browsed thru the last set received, I noticed a word on a DiGiorno pizza coupon that I didn’t recognize: Ahorra $1. I’ve been to Puerto Villarta, Mexico and listened to Spanish language tapes and CD’s enough to recognize the word as belonging to the Spanish language.  I didn’t pay much mind, kept browsing, then noticed another Spanish phrase on a Crest 3D Whitestrips coupon: $7 De Descuento. I used : Ahorra = it saves, and De Descuento= of discount.

I was rather surprised at the use of Spanish on coupons. Why? From my perspective, the US is very ethnocentric (look it up) regarding the English language.  When I was growing up, not many schools required students to take a second language whereas it’s mandatory in other countries. I’ve traveled to and through five continents, and most foreigners I’ve met seem to speak English relatively well, even if they express that they only know a smattering.

Many love to practice their English with a native speaker.  On the other hand, one tends to run into a lot of Americans overseas, and the tendency I’ve seen is that we rarely speak or even try to speak the native language.  We always ask in English first, thereby pretty much demanding the other speaker converse in English. Once in Paris, in English, I asked a resident where I could buy a bus ticket. He acted like he didn’t understand me. “Ne parle Anglais,” he kept repeating—translation “Don’t speak English.”

I fumbled through my huge travel bag and pulled out a French phrase book. Even though I had four years of high school French under my belt, I nervously struggled with the phrase, “Où vous faire achète des billets pour l’autobus?”   Suddenly the resident was able to speak brilliant English and directed me, with a warm touch on the shoulder, to the automatic ticket machine . Lesson learned!

On international flights the attendants generally give the safety spiel in the native tongue, then repeat in English. Dual signage is generally found in the train station, airport and tourist spots; the first sign is in language of the country, and right below is the term in English. One exception–  I remember feeling out of sorts in the Barcelona train station because there was no English signage.

Maybe the dual signage is because they want to encourage and make tourists comfortable, and possibly because English is the most common language. If you are French, vacationing in Spain and don’t know Spanish, you probably know some English.  So after all, maybe American don’t need to learn any other language when it seems the world caters to us.

Esto es en español cuando no se está mirando
That is why I was very surprised to see not just one, but two coupons in English and Spanish. The face of America is changing!  In Georgia alone, census quick facts reveal Hispanic and Latino population is 8.3% of 9.8 million, or 815,824.

RedPlum(dot)com has made a visible effort to embrace a foreign culture by incorporating the language, accepting and encouraging(?) Spanish speakers as part of the American culture.


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