In eighth grade, I entered my Spanish class which was held in the school cafeteria. There were only a handful of students taking the course, but that didn’t matter. I was still embarrassed when the teacher walked over to me and started speaking in Spanish just as I sat down.
She was asking a question, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
So I said “Aloha”.
I was young, immature and nervous. Welcome to my life. Once it came out of my mouth, I remembered that it wasn’t the same language.
Call it cultivated. Call it confusing. I confess that I know two languages: hillbilly and English. Everything else is just a guess.
But I’m off. The 2015 census reported that there are at least 350 languages spoken in the United States.
You see, sometimes I’m outside. Sometimes I hear people speaking something that is not native. I see the looks they have. I see the smiles.
Sometimes I hear people speaking broken English. I know hearing the imperfections of the speech really makes some people’s blood boil. Some say they should learn English or leave. I guess I can see both sides. One is proud of his speech, the other is trying to learn.
Yet what some don’t realize is that these people with broken English probably know a language or two more than most. Shit, even me.
Learning another language is one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do. I would rather sleep in the rain during a hurricane than go to a Spanish-speaking country and try to converse with the natives. I don’t have the nerve. But some come here with dreams and a bit of English they have learned.
In other countries, speaking multiple languages is the norm. Here, it seems to belittle people. About 22% of people living in the United States speak another language at home, which has doubled since the 1980s, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
It may seem like a lot, but around 65% of Europe’s population, aged 25-64, can speak at least one foreign language, according to Eurostat.
In European countries, they are starting to hone language skills as fast as they can. Their pupils study their first foreign language between the ages of 6 and 9.
Then they start learning another one soon, according to the Pew Research Center.
During that time, I almost cried when I had to take two years of Spanish when I was 13. I really sobbed when I realized I had to take two more to graduate. For some reason we grow to hate it. Maybe we should start foreign language lessons earlier? I don’t have the answers. I’m just a 20 year old girl who has no idea about hollowness.
It just hurts my heart to see some of those who are learning English being laughed at. I guess they make it look easy. They deceived me.
I can’t imagine the looks I would get if I flew to Spain and greeted everyone with a cheeky “Aloha”.
Hannah Morgan, a Wyoming County native, attends WVU in pursuit of a career in journalism. His email is [email protected]