The Ugly American

Discussion in 'Travel & Vacation' started by Ken Anderson, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    In another thread, I made a joke about being American, so I expect everyone else to learn English. There's a lot of truth to that, from Americans. I don't go on a lot of vacations outside of the United States but I did go on a Caribbean cruise and there were people on the ship who were upset because everyone they talked to along the way didn't speak English to them. Well, everyone isn't there for their entertainment. Some of them just happen to live on the island that you're visiting on vacation.

    I spent about twenty years in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. While the Valley is in the United States, it wasn't always part of the United States, and English isn't the first language of most of the people who live there.

    Apart from a few Anglos, like me, who moved there for whatever reason, there are two kinds of people who live in the Valley: those who are native to the area and those who just crossed the border and are waiting for an opportunity to go further north. The real checkpoint is more than a hundred miles north of the border.

    Those who just came across the border probably can't speak English, or at least are not fluent in the language. Most of those who have lived there for generations can speak English just fine, but they choose not to. They attended elementary school, high school, and maybe college, all of which was taught in English. Throughout elementary and high school, they mostly spoke English amongst themselves, while they spoke Spanish at home. Sometime after high school, as they become adults, unless they work in a job that demands the use of English, they pretty much drop it, and speak Spanish.

    A lot of Anglos from the northern states will winter in the Rio Grande Valley in order to escape the cold and the snow. They are known as Winter Texans. Those who own trailer parks, vacation rentals, and restaurants earn a bit of a living from them during the winter. I was in the ambulance business, so I benefited from their heart attacks and strokes. Winter Texans tend to shop in malls though, so other local businesses don't benefit a lot from them.

    More importantly, to the average person who lives in the Valley, the Winter Texans are simply people who drive slow and complain a lot.

    I was sitting in the restaurant with some other EMTs and paramedics one day when a group of Winter Texans came in and sat a couple of tables away from us. The rest fo the restaurant was occupied by locals trying to eat their dinner.

    These people sat there and loudly complained about how rude everyone was to be speaking Spanish in a public place, and how stupid they must be to live in this country and still not know how to speak English. They went on and on, wholly unaware that everyone in the restaurant understood every word they said, and they were loud enough that most people heard them.

    On our way out, one of the Winter Texans said something to my friend, who besides me was the only other Anglo in the place other than the group of Winter Texans. I don't remember what it was they were asking but he answered them in Spanish. It was funny.
     
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  2. Harry Havens

    Harry Havens Well-Known Member
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    How can you say Texas without speaking Spanish? Or Rio Grande?
     
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  3. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    Some of the adult Hispanic people here don't speak English well but they do well enough to communicate. The younger ones who were born here speak better English than old timers. They learn proper English and we have learned all kinds of dialects.

    I like hearing them speak in Spanish. It's a beautiful language. It has sort of a musical flow to it.
     
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  4. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Veteran Member
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    I was advised I would have to take a year of foreign language in high school, to qualify for most college admittance requirements. Spanish was taken by most of my college-intent peers, as it was said to be the "easiest". Somehow, I wound up taking German, a fact which, once known by by grandparents, almost worked them up as incensed! These Czech-born folks positively hated the Germans, never having recovered from military incursions into their homeland by German soldiers.

    Turned out my grandma's second husband Joe, whose name was definitely German-sounding, Pfeiffer, was "roughed-up" several times at work during WW-II by coworkers thinking him German. He feared this so much he had his name legally changed, taking his wife's maiden name, Sedlar, much more Czech-sounding. He tried a few choice German proverbs on me, but the dialect was so strong, I could not make out what he was saying. We were were taught "Hoch-Deutsch", "High German", meaning everything including speech was grammatically correct.
    Frank
     
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  5. Tex Dennis

    Tex Dennis Active Member
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    I had to take Spanish in school the only other was French & Latin, later I found that I could hardly understand a word Mexicans spoke, it was about useless to me. I did learn German later to converse with my dogs some. I wish I had more choices in school.
     
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  6. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    Two years of Spanish in high school didn't do me any good.
     
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  7. Harry Havens

    Harry Havens Well-Known Member
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    I worked in Mexico for 3 years and they preferred I NOT speak Spanish. Which led to some interesting conversations in English.
    Miguel: "I am constipated and need to stop and get nasal spray."
    Me: "You mean some kind of laxative?"
    Miguel: "No! I am constipated".
    Me: "Sure".

    Then there is the confusion of Mexican Spanish and Argentine Spanish over words having different meanings. Sorta like fries/chips chips/crisp, etc. It becomes rather important, when you realize a bit too late that Mexicans and Argentines don't easily assimilate over words might be considered quite complimentary to one but a bitter insult to the other, when voice inflection is taken into account. At least that was my experience.
     
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  8. Don Alaska

    Don Alaska Very Well-Known Member
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    I spent some time in South America, and I found that every time I crossed a border or entered into a different region the dialect (and sometime the vocabulary) could change dramatically. I also found that the "white" speakers (those who were well-educated and mostly Spanish in genealogy) were much easer to understand than the mestizos who were heavily interbred with the native population; they used less slang and spoke a dialect that was much closer to Castilian Spanish. Argentines have a melting pot language (similar to American English), and have French, German, and who knows what mixed into their vocabulary.
     
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  9. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Veteran Member
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    @Tex Dennis My good friend Greg Sanchez, born and raised in NM, told me the Mexican dialects have "bastardized" the Spanish Language. His folks emigrated from Spain, settling in NM before the start of the Depression. His classic example is "Puerco". A dry wash crossing under I-40 west of Albuquerque is labeled "Rio Puerco". River of Pork, by common use. Puerco, however, defines classically as "dirty". Thus, the dirtiness of pigs carries over into dialectical Spanish.
    Frank
     
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  10. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Veteran Member
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    @Ken Anderson Not even during those years down in the Mexican Republic of Texas?
    Frank
     
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  11. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    The oxymoron part of the idea that Americans who believe someone else is "stupid" or "rude" because they do not speak English is that most of the people in the rest of the world with the exception of the U.S. are multi-lingual.
    Even if we peruse the forums, we find people from India, the Philippines, Asia, France and Africa busy honing their ability to write in English in order to compliment their ability to speak it.

    Our First Lady, Melania Trump, speaks more languages (and probably has a higher IQ) than anyone in congress but still takes flack by some not-so-well wishers in that same institution of government. I guess a woman has to be less than gorgeous in order to be considered intelligent.
    If that is so then Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters have the capability to be rocket scientists.......................
     
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  12. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    That's it, exactly.
     
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  13. Don Alaska

    Don Alaska Very Well-Known Member
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    We probably have the worst education system in the developed world as well. I think that contributes to it. We generally spend more money on it and get worse results, just as happens in health care. Most young Americans know few languages (and can't write their own very well), and know less about geography and history than comparable students in other nations of the developed world. They are too busy with gender identity, toxic masculinity and white privilege. We homeschooled our first five children, but our youngest son wanted to play football so was allowed to go to a "public" high school. One of his first comments was, "we have different dinner conversations than my friends' families."
     
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  14. Tex Dennis

    Tex Dennis Active Member
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    My ex sister in law was a retired teacher, she had to pass some students and was called out for previously failing some, she showed me some students work that was honestly a joke, yet she could not fail them they will go on to be a drain on the rest of us, to many failures gets attention lose grant funds, to many of one race fails then another problem comes into play, actual test scores were not to be used either pass or fail as it hurt some's feelings, I saw this exact thing in my agency on qualification scores not used just pass or fail and if failed could retake it. It was said not to be fair to all , neither is life. Feelings hurt.
     
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  15. Carol Knott

    Carol Knott Member
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    I took Spanish in college, but lost most of it, at least until we moved to Texas. Most of my students were Hispanic. Most also spoke English, but often the parents did not. I could usually understand most of what they said, but had way more problems speaking to the parents. Fortunately, a translator was never hard to find. The thing about learning English is this -- it's spoken worldwide. We had a foreign exchange student from Germany years ago. We keep in touch. She is working for Sloan Kettering in New York, and tells me that all scientific reports and talks are delivered in English, regardless of the scientist's country.

    No one here bats an eye if they hear Spanish spoken in a store. It's commonplace. And if you go into a Fiesta Market (a chain grocery) you will be lucky to find a clerk who speaks English. Not too sure how I feel about that. All of the signs in Home Depot are in both languages. Can you say plumeria? Or ferrerretia? (Plumbing and hardware).
     
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  16. Bill Boggs

    Bill Boggs Veteran Member
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    I learned a little spanish growing up, mainly because I went to a school that was fifty percent minority. When I joined the army and went to Korea there was two or three mexicanos from the San antonia and Corpus Christi area in my Company . I would speak with them sometimes in spanish, trying to learn a little more of their language and when we were off they woukd come to my platoon and hang out. One day the Company Commandedr sent for me. I thoujght I was in some kind of trouble. He said he had been ordered to send one corporal and one junior officer to a Porta Rician unit that had recently been sent to Korea. What will I do there, I ask. You'll be an interrupter, he replied. But, Sir, don't know Spanish. Yes, you do, I've heard you talking to some Mexicans in Spanish in the trenches. You can teach the officer Spanish while you're over there. A new lieutenant. I played my ace card, Sir, I'm not a corporal. I'm a PFC. As of now private, you are a brand new Corporal. I spent six weeks with the Porta Ricans and only saw my lieutenant twice during the six weeks, So I don't know how he fared. They assigned a Porta Rician Corporal to me who spoke excellent English and I learned to speak Spanish faster (Porta Ricans speak fast) and I couldn't understand a word they said. Sometime later, I was sent to a Turkish Bragade to run patrols with them, show them how we did things and teach them about some of our weapons. They'd run patrol all night, sit around sharpening their knives and bayonets all day, seem to sleep very little. on patrols they made no attempt at quietness. You could have heard their patrol for a half mile.They didn't care, they were itching for a fight. One day in a chow line two or three Turks made fun of a Turkish soldier because he was eating with a fork instead of a knife. Most of them ate with their knives. A fight broke out. One of the Turks who had made fun of the young soldier was stabbed in the face with the fork, almost got his eye. I was glad to get out of their unit. I just knew they were going to be ambushed one night. But it never happened. What I have learned about another language, if you don 't use it, you lose it.
     
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    Last edited: May 5, 2018
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