Tuesday, July 13, 2004

English, Spanish, or How About Both?

As you may all know, I am job hunting. I'm trying to get a job in the retail industry until I find something else or go into management. But as some of you know, Miami is a strange animal. Some of the stores that I've gone into, have sales reps that don't speak any English. Here I am trying to get a retail job, even though I speak English and Spanish, I can't get hired! I walk into places where I have to speak Spanish because the rep doesn't understand what I'm saying. Is this fair? Isn't it a requirement to know English in order to work in a clothing store?

Maybe, I'm cruel. Maybe, I don't understand this strange animal called Miami. It frustrates me immensely. If you think I'm being a snob or an elitist, so be it. You know, when I was going through the hiring process at Bellsouth, I had to take a Spanish test over the phone in order to get hired. The position I had required that I speak Spanish and very fluently, since most of my calls would be from Hispanic customers. It wasn't a big deal test. I just had to prove to the other person over the phone that I could carry on a conversation in Spanish without throwing in English words. My point is that I needed to prove that I spoke Spanish. It was essential to the job.

I do understand that predominantly the people that walk into stores in the area I live in speak Spanish. But what would these reps do if they moved into Broward county? That's the invisible line between Spanish Florida and English Florida. Are these people creating a trap by remaining in this county because they don't have to learn English? I do want to add that not all of Miami speaks Spanish, either. You drive south a bit and you better know English.

I'm a big proponent of learning English if you're here. My parents can't fluently speak in English and it frustrates me. But I can't blame everyone for not knowing the language, either. Like my father, he has spent most of his time working from 7:00 am all the way to 8:00 or 9:00 at night. When I was younger, he even pumped gas on the weekends (working 12 hour shifts). To his credit, my father tries to understand and speak as much English as possible because he understands that it is important to be able to communicate. My brother-in-law is another one that works three jobs (not much time to learn English there, either). Let's all be honest here, putting food on the table is much more important than learning English.

My concern is that Hispanics are trapping themselves by not learning English. Is it reasonable to live in this country for 30 or 40 years and not be able to defend yourself verbally? If I moved to France, I better learn French because I won't understand what is going on over there. My point is that you have to adapt to the environment you're in. You might get by in life by asking others for help, but what happens when that help is no longer available? How do you survive?

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I totally agree. I wrote a long response, but deleted it.

Glad you found a job.

W. :)