For this last post on my short series of “I wish multilingual influencers advocated for multilingualism rather than mediocrity that handicaps minorities” blog posts, I’ll be addressing another Instagram post that stirred something in me when I first came across it.
(Find Part 1 and Part 2 here.)
In case you needed it, here’s some context
I was born and raised in Colombia, where I attended both a bilingual Catholic school and separate ESL classes at an English-language-learning center, and French classes at another place.
I’ve been learning English since I was a kid and speaking it mostly full-time since I was a teen. In college, I was a writing tutor and helped undergrads, grad students, and professionals all communicate and write better in English.
I also know some French.
I speak Spanish to our toddler (as do my parents when they visit) while my monolingual and “Renaissance Man” husband speaks English.
In case my other posts on multilingualism hadn’t made it obvious, I believe it’s important we speak well–or at least well enough for others to understand us.
I also believe that if someone doesn’t understand me, it’s not because they’re racist; it’s because I must’ve said something either not loudly enough (so they didn’t hear it) or in a way that they couldn’t comprehend it somehow.
Along those lines, I additionally believe that if someone doesn’t understand what another person says for whatever reason (for me, it’s most commonly due to some thick accents because I learned to speak a very neutral English), then the burden is on the transmitter to work to help the recipient understand the message.
Now, on to the post. (After this one, I’m done because while I enjoy debunking what this account puts out, I don’t have the patience to keep up with all the nonsense.)
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It’s been said that linguistic prejudice is merely linguistically-argued racism/classism, and daaaang ain’t that the truth. Racism and classism under the guise of wanting to “uphold correct grammar,” “maintain the purity of the language,” and “promote proper pronunciation.” Guess what. That disguise ain’t fooling nobody.
First, according to whom does that qualify as racism? How can make anyone with common sense argue that wanting to keep correct grammar and proper pronunciation constitute racism and prejudice?
That’s just an excuse for mediocrity at best… and a way to handicap others and keep them down at worst.
And mediocrity isn’t how one battles so-called racism, even the kind that’s made-up.
Because if I’m a college professor and my student’s paper is full of “ain’ts,” I’ll kindly remind him that that’s not proper college rhetoric, and to please correct it. That’s not racism: it’s common sense.
You battle racism with common sense, NOT with mediocrity (excusing bad grammar and poor pronunciations) or by handicapping those who don’t get better by insisting they’re fine the way they are.
There is no ONE superior language, dialect, or accent. No hay una sola forma correcta de hablar.
Wrong: there is.
The right way to communicate is whichever way others will understand. Easy peasy. Whichever way fits my context makes it the PERFECT way to communicate in that context.
Like I brought up in my first post, think of ALL the media that have to abide by certain linguistic standards.
(And by “media,” I don’t mean news shows and newspapers, though those count too. No, instead I’m referring to all kinds of media that we interact with every day: Instruction manuals, documentaries, ads, and so on.)
They have standards they must abide by because that’s how they can ensure they’re understood by the majority and then have their ideas, products, etc. sell more effectively.
How journalists write, how college papers are written (be it MLA- or APA-style), how newscasters are trained to speak, etc. isn’t racist.
Words & phrases like ain’t, aks, parquear, fustratin, pior, llamar para atras, youse guys, and pos are no less correct than their more “standard” (entre comillas) counterparts. Language being accepted or not has nothing to do with correctness, and everything to do with which dialects have been historically linked to prestige and power. At Bilinguitos, we say to hell with language policing and linguistic prejudice. And instead say…
OK, I’ll bite and debunk each of those terms and explain why their STANDARD counterparts are in fact right:
- “Ain’t” isn’t right for EVERY context: not an instruction manual, not a mortgage application, not a college paper, not a dissertation, etc. Among buddies? Yeah, sure, why not?
- If by “aks” you mean “aSk,” then that’s just a typo, and it’s actually “ASK.” Go ahead and keep saying “aks” instead, but don’t mind others’ funny looks.
- “Parquear” is linguistically fine and there isn’t any evidence to the contrary. (I grew up using the term but I also looked it up and every source defined it as what I know it to mean–to park, as in a vehicle–or one’s self if you’re being rude/cynical about someone stopping somewhere and not moving for a while.) Therefore, this one’s moot.
- “Frustratin'” is missing the G at the end, if you want to write it in a more formal setting, but all others don’t need it. Moot.
- “Pior” is a typo: The correct way to write it is “peor” (worse in Spanish), with an E. Depending on how fast the person’s saying it, it can sometimes sound like, “Pior,” but that doesn’t make “Pior” the correct way to purposefully say or write it. To allege otherwise excuses poor orthography and a careless disregard for language, AKA mediocrity, laziness.
- “Llamar para atras” is something I’ve never heard any other native Spanish speakers say in my life, but apparently it means “To call back” (literally translated, it’s “to call behind,” as in, “call me back”). If so, then I echo these people’s sentiments: What a monstrosity of a phrase that doesn’t mean what people think it means, but at least I now know what those without a full grasp of either English or Spanish use it for.
- “Youse guys”: Again, more of a colloquial term used in conversation than one employed in more formal writings, so unless someone advocates for its use in the later: moot.
- “Pos” is “pues,” but butchered. Pues is something that many Spanish speakers use in a variety of contexts, but somewhere along the line some thought that “Pos” was the proper way to say/write it, and others are now getting pissy trying to depend it. Defend it all you want in informal, colloquial conversations, but don’t come at me trying to pass yet another monstrosity as correct.
Language being accepted or not has nothing to do with correctness, and everything to do with which dialects have been historically linked to prestige and power.
You can believe that all you want, too, or you can instead believe that a particular language being accepted has to do with what most people understand best, or what allows commerce and progress to flourish.
Now, you may argue that Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, etc. all became a particular country’s official language (in the case of most countries in North, Central, and South America) or unofficial language (in the case of the United States) precisely because of colonialism and thanks to the influence of conquistadores. But what’s allowed each of those languages to CONTINUE being so important to the economies of those regions? Looong-dead conquistadores?
Or would it be preferable to instead have 1000 languages in each country so that commerce, progress, and communications can’t advance like they have been because everything has to be narrow-casted rather than broadcasted?
All so that a few people are happy?
What’s wrong with having one–or a few–centralized languages to communicate in?
And what’s so wrong with insisting that they be spoken properly so that ideas can be passed down effectively?
Your language is welcome here. Your language is valued here. Your language is celebrated here. Your language belongs here.
Considering that Bilinguitos focuses on Spanish and English bilingualism, I don’t see how any other languages can be welcomed, valued, or celebrated there, but that may just be me.
Although if by “language” she means, “amalgamations of butcherings and mediocre substitutions for proper terms in a language,” then I get what she says here and why she says it: I’m sure being so open to everything helps with engagement.
Linguistic discrimination says “You speak differently than me thus you’re less-than; you’re not welcome here; you don’t belong.” Linguistic discrimination is othering and oppressive.
I don’t see how noticing that another person is speaking differently entails discrimination.
When I don’t understand someone, I ask for help. That’s not racist, and saying that it is, is problematic and creates victims where there aren’t any.
But… Linguistic equality is empowering. The celebration of linguistic diversity says “We don’t all speak the same, and that’s beautiful. You talk differently than me and I welcome that. You belong here and are valued here.”
I mean… I get it: There are true xenophobes in this country who’ll never embrace others’ differences while ignoring that their own families were new here at some point.
(As I mentioned before, though, I’m not necessarily referring to descendants of European migrants because even “Native” Americans immigrated here.)
However, xenophobes don’t make up the majority of people in the US, and almost everyone is great at embracing new things and different cultures.
This point reminds me of a White lady I saw recently at a multicultural fair wearing a traditional Mexican star hat she had just bought.
I’m not going to lie: I thought she looked silly and out-of-place. But I was still elated to see someone like her trying out and embracing something new.
So when someone makes these grandiose statements to an audience that already thinks like them, I question what they’re hoping to accomplish: more adulation?
Now that I think about it, yes, perhaps it IS more adulation and pats on the back because slactivism is easy, free, and effective at getting people riled up while effecting no actual change.
Believe it or not, we all have an accent, it’s just that we don’t perceive it because it’s what we’re used to. Don’t like the way someone speaks? Or are you just passing judgment without getting to know the person? You see, we all speak a little differently because we carry with us our background, our upbringing, our hometown, our speech community, our methods of language acquisition & whole lot more. Dig deeper.
This is a perfect example of my priest story from my last post. Basically, our parish welcomed a new priest but we couldn’t understand most of what he says in his homilies (fortunately, the rest of the Mass we know by heart) so we went to another parish, because (GASP!) we prefer understanding what we’re told.
I’d like to know how “digging deeper” would help one understand what sounds unintelligible to them. I’d also like to understand how this platitude would help the person who can’t be understood actually get better at communicating their own ideas.
Because keeping someone at the same level they started with, and giving them no room for growth because it’s supposedly not their responsibility to learn to speak in a way that more people will understand, is akin to handicapping them and lacking faith in that person.
And if they’re a minority and you’re already admitting that people shouldn’t expect more of them because it’s not politically correct or some other nonsense, then yes, this mentality that keeps others “less-than” makes you a racist.
Jesus told parables to explain big concepts about the Kingdom of God: He took it upon himself to “translate” or make those ideas easier to understand by the laypeople who followed him. That’s because the burden is on the transmitter–not the recipient–to be effective at communicating. It’s why the game of Telephone, though hilarious, can end so disastrously.
If you don’t understand me, it’s on ME to do what I can to help you understand me better.
The next time you hear someone saying “ain’t,” “pos,” o “llámame pa’trás,” remember, the way someone talks is absolutely valid and a part of them. Throw away any preconceived notions and focus on getting to know the whole person, valuing & celebrating y’alls differences.
It may be a part of them, but it doesn’t make them valid.
Just like calling Hispanics “Latinx”: It’s been done but it’s not valid. It’s actually idiotic because Hispanics also go by “Latin@s,”–NOT the woke “Latinx” that wants to erase the only two genders there are. But I digress.
Differences can be acknowledged and respected, but not necessarily valued or celebrated.
I don’t have to value or celebrate someone’s delusion that they believe they’re a different gender than the one they were born with or the one their DNA dictates that they are. Actually, scratch that: I can celebrate it insofar as it lets me seek and cling more deeply to things that DO make sense and that nurture me.
I can respect that there are working mothers, but I won’t value or celebrate their choice to put their kids in daycare.
I can respect that others drink alcohol, but I won’t celebrate anything by partaking in their alcohol consumption.
I’ll stop but you get the idea.
We can respect different choices and lifestyles, but valuing and celebrating them ALL isn’t by any means a requirement, or else the would would just be a psychotically permissive free-for-all in which everything’s accepted and welcomed when it shouldn’t be (like drag queens teaching children to pole-dance–wait: this is already happening, yuck).
On the other hand, not celebrating or valuing everything doesn’t make one racist, transphobic, etc., especially if these differences go against one’s values.
Again, these seem more like more fashionable platitudes than helpful actionable steps, but I guess it makes sense considering that’s all social media lets some people do.
At Bilingüitos, all languages, dialects, and accents are welcome & celebrated here!
Before I go on any farther, I have to say that the “here” above is redundant because you already stated where we are. (It’s like if one said, “At Walmart, I can buy Bluey toys here!” See?)
I remember mentioning before how I didn’t understand what she meant by her welcoming “all languages” when her program Bilingüitos is only for Spanish and English speakers. Which is why this is yet another platitude that doesn’t do or mean much: how can one welcome ALL languages while only focusing on two? (See what happens when you’re too permissive and inclusive? You become a walking contradiction.) But I digress again.
In my years of learning English (which, considering I never stopped, then I’ve been doing it for 30+ years), I’d say I’ve became quite good at discerning where an accent’s from. I find this ability thrilling because as a multicultural, accents and dialects fascinate me. It’s a blessing because it helps me better understand where someone’s from: I’ll even watch thorough YouTube videos from voice coaches where they teach viewers the roots of certain dialects.
However, the “curse” that can come with such a power(?) is that I’m extra sensitive to different ways of speaking from my own. And because I learned to speak a relatively neutral English (that only became more neutral in Utah), I can more quickly detect the idiosyncrasies of someone’s way of speaking. When it’s close to neutral, it’s fine for me.
But where I begin to struggle is when the differences are so major that I can’t make up most words they’re saying.
No one with common sense would think of of this as me being a racist, though, and I wish accounts like hers, which can be significant platforms for goodness, true education, and observation, among other enriching things, would instead educate on the nuance of multilingualism in the United States.
Instead of issuing slactivist platitudes meant to rile people up and create victims out of multilingual speakers, incl. kids by putting them on the defensive with shirts that have statements voicing things young minds don’t think about or care for, or worse, seeming to care more about making money and garnering views and Likes than effecting change… these accounts should be more open-minded to different views.
Because different doesn’t necessarily equate to racist, better, or worse. Just different.
So let me prefer stuff that I can understand in peace and keep your victimhood mentality to yourself.