During this rather frightening period we are experiencing, language rises to the top. Why? With increased police brutality and dangerous methods of restraint, being able to communicate in English becomes essential. Someone of color, who speaks no English, becomes vulnerable to miscommunication, and unable to follow instructions. I am surprised the Orange man has not mandated English!
Speaking of, did you know this? You might be surprised to learn that the United States has no official language. However, the majority of individual states have declared English as their official state languages. Two states are officially bilingual: Hawaii and South Dakota. The 1978 Hawaii State Constitution made both English and Hawaiian the official state languages. And in 2019, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill recognizing the official indigenous language of the O’ceti Sakowin. Commonly known as Sioux, the language comprises the dialects of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota and joins English as the second official language of South Dakota. Alaska goes even further — in 2014, the state added twenty indigenous languages to the official language act, making these native tongues co-official with English.
I have never been very good with second or third languages. But I did have the good fortune to have my grandparents across the street during my childhood. So, I can understand basic conversational Japanese, thanks to them. And I manage to get by when I visit my Mother land. And I also used language programs to enhance my limited Japanese.
I took Latin in high school, but nobody speaks that any more, except maybe for a Jeopardy question. And my German classes at UC Berkeley allow me to order a “bier” and not much more! My “in laws” in Ohio are superb linguists, always learning new languages as they traverse the world. Kudos to them!
With an increasing number of Hispanic or Latino people in California, speaking or understanding some basic Spanish is quite handy. When my son was waiting tables in college, his Spanish was incredibly useful. He was able to communicate with the Spanish speaking busboys, allowing his tables to be bussed first, and resulting in his tables being filled the fastest by the hostess!