August 18th, 2017
Americans get a bad rap for speaking only English, of making no effort to learn the languages of other cultures. For the most part, this is true. Unlike Europe, where an hour drive might find you in a completely foreign land, the furthest the average American will make it as far as edge of the state. But that’s not all of us.
In Southern California, from where I hail, the proximity to Mexico makes it not only worth it to speak at least some basic Spanish, it’s almost compulsory. And we are not alone. Foreign languages are being taught at younger and younger ages and it bodes well for the future of our region and the country in whole. Another language connects one more deeply to a culture, the nature of our world as one people, and most importantly, makes you sound like a fancy pants.
So, when I see a fluently bilingual toddler I am not only impressed but often more jealous than is reasonable for an adult toward a 5-year old.
Of course, there are the rare drawbacks:
In line at the ATM one day there was a young dad and his little girl, maybe all of four years old.
The father stands with his daughter, entering in his PIN:
“Nueve!” the girl yells confidently.
In a quiet voice he replies, “That’s very good sweetie but shhh please”
He presses another button.
“Yes Clara that’s right but please we have to be quiet right now.”
He focuses on the screen tries to hide the buttons with his hand, keeps an eye on his daughter all at once.
Clara erupts into giggles.
The father, perhaps regretting just a bit his daughter linguistic skills, tries to turn her away, making a modestly curious little girl an obsessed investigator.
In what must have felt like a moment of glorious looney tune ingenuity Clara’s father points off to the distance,
“Clara look it’s a mariposa!”
Beep. The last button is entered.
“A butterfly? Where!?”
“Oh, I guess it flew away, let’s go li’l one.”
Better luck next time Clara. Like the rest of you baby geniuses, you give me hope for the future, a good laugh and a healthy dose of envy.
Alex Brenner – When he is not helping international students as ACEI’s Communications Officer, Alex puts his writing chops to work as a script doctor for Hollywood screenwriters and guest blogs for ACEI-Global. Alex has a BA in English from UCLA and has been fortunate to have travelled to many corners of the world as a child and an adult.