Speaking Spanish in Phoenix, Arizona
Most people are very surprised to find that I speak a little Spanish. Maybe it's my ojos azules, or maybe they've just become accustomed to the fact that many people in Arizona speak only one language, English.
Of course, I really don't speak Spanish, as anyone who actually speaks Spanish would realize in an instant. I can read and write a little bit of it, and I went to the trouble of learning to pronounce some words and phrases. But it gives me an insight into a world that is usually invisible to people who only speak one language.
When it is polite for me to do so, I sometimes ask people how many languages they speak. So far the most anyone has admitted to me was five, and that was with apologies at not really being all that fluent in the fifth language. That meant four fluent languages. Four.
Of course, you don't have to ask if someone is fluent in two languages, all you have to do is to listen for an accent. If someone is speaking to you in English, and you can tell by their pronunciation that they have a foreign accent, well guess what, they speak a minimum of two languages. Maybe more.
Getting back to practicing my Spanish is something that I find myself saying year after year. And I will, because not only is a beautiful language, it shows respect for the two places that are the most important to me, California and Arizona.
Image above: Caballeros in Gold Alley in 1915, Phoenix, Arizona. From Mexicans in Phoenix, by Frank Barrios.
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Posted by Brad Hall