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Friday, May 14, 2010

For Me, Learning Spanish is not Easy

Dear Family and Friends,

First of all, a comment on my last post about my blood pressure. I went to Dr. Marteniz on Wednesday afternoon. He checked my blood pressure in each arm and told me that it was in the normal range. I was very happy to get that good news.

Now for today's post.

Everyday, my email contains comments from friends about how tired they are of Spanish speaking people living in the U.S. without learning and using English. It is clear that these comments are forwarded from another source…which means the sender did not create the comment, but by forwarding it on, put their stamp of approval on it.

Actually, the intolerance of language is just one topic forwarded on to me about non-English speaking residents of the U.S. You receive them too, so you know what I mean.

Right now, for me, living in Ecuador, I could be at the receiving end of this intolerant attitude.

Today I went to our local co-op to shop. While shopping the fresh produce, I remembered I wanted mushrooms. I didn't see them, so I asked a clerk if she had any.....oh goodness I couldn't remember the Spanish word for mushrooms....I asked if she had ‘fungi?’ She looked at me completely confused. I told her it was o.k. and I kept looking. When I came to end of the aisle she came over to me and said “Ingles” (English) and pointed to a lady customer who was talking on a cell phone. So I went over to the lady and she handed me her cell phone and motioned for me to ask my question into her cell phone. I took the cell phone and asked this invisible person on the other end if the co-op had mushrooms. Then I handed the cell phone back to the lady who had given it to me and she talked with the English speaking person on the other end. As soon as I heard her say “champiñón” I felt so dumb. Of course, that is the local Spanish word for mushrooms. I knew that! I see it on restaurant menus all the time.

Where am I going with all this?

After I came home from shopping, I was checking my email and there was another forwarded comment about the sender’s intolerance of Spanish speaking U.S. residents not speaking English.

Intolerance …emotionally cold, bigoted, narrow-minded

Tolerance … emotionally warm, sensitive, open-minded

I am so blessed to be surrounded by tolerant Ecuadorans who go out of their way to help me adjust to my new language.

Just a little something to “chew on” as you interact with others in your daily existence.


  1. Your comments today on the subject of Intolerance reminded me of an experience we had about four years ago while visiting the museum in the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires. Among the visitors while we were there, there was an american couple also looking at the exhibits. She was rather annoyed that the signs were only in spanish and not in english; they didn't stay very long. The thought crossed my mind then as to how tolerant she may have been of immigrants to the US who spoke in their native language and not in english.

    Best regards,
    Alex and Linda Bueno
    Alexandria, VA.

  2. Very nicely written, Nancy. Since we live outside of Othello we are surrounded by Spanish speaking neighbors. Over the years we have had a number of laborers help us take care of our property. We have a couple of favorites. I have watched Armando's English improve over the years but Davey has a very difficult time and I have not seen much improvement. I don't believe it is due to lack of trying, it just doesn't come easily to him but we do manage to communicate through other methods. Thanks for posting this.

    Carol Pope

  3. Loved this post! Learning a new language is hard for most people regardless of the language in question but kindness is usually understood and always welcome.

  4. OH Nancy, once again you have hit it on the head. I too have "immature" spanish skills. Fortunately I am on my way to a land of wonderful people who try to help and encourage the use by their sweet demeanors! Viva Ecuador!

  5. Such a nice post, Nancy.
    Today, at SuperMaxi, we were short a penny and the nice gal behind us in line offered one...told us ALOT about the 'sweetness' and generousity of the people here.
    In our halting Spanish, we thanked her over and over again. Tonight, we wondered how that would have played in the US if the table was turned...

  6. When I was learning Spanish at age 49 in Cuenca in the early 1990s virtually all of the people were extremely helpful and friendly. When my wife Teonila had to learn English in Southern California in the early 2000s the people (with the few exceptions of some very nice folks and people I introduced her to), were generally intolerant, unfriendly, and on occasion insulting. Now back in Cuenca since March 2nd, I am finding the same loving and understanding people here helping me daily recover my Espanol which at times flows perfectly, and at other times comes out " totalmente chueco". - Gerard

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Comments are welcome.