Americans take English for granted. They also accept all foreign borrowings into the English language without any qualms, which is the reason that English has the largest vocabulary of any language on Earth. There are many words of Spanish origin and actual Spanish words in our English vocabulary and everyone uses them without realizing it.
For example, on the news they’ll talk of military juntas. For years, people have been going to rodeos and watching cowboys lasso calves. Let’s not forget about the countless times we went to the plaza with gusto. Of course, many people eat tortilla chips with salsa. Let’s not forget about our famous politicians who use Spanish phrases to court the Hispanic vote. President Bush has said good-bye by saying, “¡Adiós, amigos!” and Arnold Schwarzenegger by saying, “¡Hasta la vista, baby!” In the office, we occasionally need something done ASAP! But sometimes, we need it “¡Pronto!”
Those tasty avocados come from the Aztec word for testicles. I hope I didn’t cause you to drop your tortilla chip full of guacamole! That reminds me. When we’re hungry, we often eat tacos, tamales, quesadillas, bocadas, and eat flan for dessert. When someone asks you a stupid question, you may say, “Does chili come with con carne?” Sometimes we want to be moderate and not go all the way, but other times we want the whole enchilada! If we really love something, we become an aficionado of the thing we truly love. Occasionally, we stray from the path to eternal salvation and commit pecadilloes. And if anyone disagrees with me about these words of Spanish origin, I will take you on mano a mano. Because I know how to take care of número uno! Sayonara!
Everyone in America wants to speak English—even immigrants. In order to function in this country, to get ahead in this country, you must speak English. However, not everyone will learn to speak English, no matter how much government officials demand it. Carpentersville, Illinois, even went so far as to pass a municipal ordinance that mandates English as the official language. Will this motivate all immigrants to learn English? Not really. If anything, this will create some animosity toward the government on the part of the immigrants, whether they’re here legally or not.
Most immigrants learn just enough English to get by on. Of those who do master English, not all of them will lose their foreign accents. That’s just the reality of learning English. Think of Henry Kissinger, who spoke fluent English, but never overcame his accent. However, he spoke fluent English. Nevertheless, someone like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger should be careful how he encourages people to learn English. Yes, he learned enough English to get by on when he came to this country, but he seems to direct himself only toward Spanish speakers when he tells hundreds of Hispanic journalists that Latinos must stop watching Spanish-language television in order to learn English.
There are immigrants from all over the world who speak many languages other than Spanish who should learn English. Living in Chicago, I have met some of those immigrants with whom I could not communicate in English or Spanish. As is typical of any immigrant group, the first generation learns only enough English to get by on, if that much. The second generation is bilingual, but by the third generation, most speak only English. Hispanics seem to be the exception to the rule. Many Americans equate being monolingual English speakers with assimilation into the American culture. Still, America is multicultural and can accommodate many cultures simultaneously. The English language is living proof that there is room for all cultures.