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Being Asked to Not Speak My Native Language

don't speak spanish, being asked not to speak your language, being told not to speak native language

Photo Credit: StillSearc

Even though I don’t remember not being able to speak or understand English, technically it is my second language. Spanish is my first.ย Growing up, though, you could even say I knew more English than Spanish, as evidenced by my lack of Spanish vocabulary and writing skills.

As a teenager and now an adult, I’ve come to take more pride in my Latino culture. I use Spanish a lot more. I’ve taken classes for native speakers so I’ve got the Spanish writing skills that many second or third generation Mexican Americans don’t have.

Sometimes I even have an accent in English or find that I can’t “switch back” to English.

Being Asked Not to Speak Spanish at Work

It’s normal for me to think and speak in Spanish at home, with Latino friends, and family. When I was working a while back, I had a coworker who was also Latina. When the day was slow, we would often have conversations in Spanish. We would laugh or talk about something serious, sometimes in front of coworkers.

We didn’t think we were offending anyone. That was never our intent.

But one day another coworker asked us to stop speaking Spanish and use English instead.

She said she didn’t like not knowing what we were talking about.ย This was a beloved and older coworker we greatly respected and admired. I’m sure she didn’t mean to offend us. But she did.

I felt hurt, like this language I had grown up with and saw as a part of my identity was inferior. It didn’t belong there.

What did we do? We disagreed with what she said, but didn’t say anything. We started speaking English.

I wish that was the only time something like this had happened. But it wasn’t.

Being Asked Not to Speak Spanish at School

In high school, I can think of at least one time in which a teacher made my friends and me stop speaking Spanish or we would be in trouble. She didn’t like not knowing what we were talking about either.

In that setting, I can understand why we would be asked to use English instead. But I also think there’s a right way to say it.

As someone who is Latina and is also going to be a teacher, I would say something like this: “I know you guys enjoy speaking Spanish (or whatever language), but I’m supposed to know what you guys are talking about. It’s my job. I’m not saying this to offend you or belittle you, but do you mind speaking English instead?” I would also make sure not to say this out loud in front of the entire class because that just embarrasses the students and alienates them further.

In a work environment, I guess it boils down to policy. But I think that next time I would speak my thoughts, explaining that Spanish is simply the language I feel most comfortable communicating in, and I don’t do it to talk behind anyone’s back or offend.

What Should We Do About It?

Some people will immediatley cry, “This is America! We speak English here!”

Exactly. This is America. A country built on many, many cultures, races, and languages. I dare that person to research their ancestors or heritage. Did they always speak English?

I also know that there are some people who might take advantage of their bilingualism to speak ill of others in front of them. What can you do? It’s gonna happen. Everyone does it, even people who only speak one language. I don’t think prohibiting any language other than English is the solution. In fact, most of the nations of the world have more than one official language.

Some people also expect non-English speakers to learn to speak English because they live here. I agree , but learning a new language takes years. And many of these people do learn to speak or at least understand English.

If anything, the people that live here should also learn to speak at least one other language. Maybe then we wouldn’t be so uneasy when it comes to hearing people speak unknown languages in front of us. Learning a second language would also help us appreciate other cultures, languages, and lifestyles.

What’s your view on this issue? Do you think people are talking about you when they speak other languages? Do you feel uncomfortable not knowing what they’re talking about? I’d love to hear your say in the comments. But as always, remember to be respectful of others’ opinions.ย 


About the Writer

Yesenia Vargas
I write books (now working on the second) and blog helpful tips for indie authors, book updates, and other fun stuff. In addition, I'm a copyeditor and proofreader. In my pretty much nonexistent spare time, I read on my Kindle Fire, attempt to stay active, and watch Netflix. I live in Georgia with my daughter and husband.

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  1. I love your new blog design ๐Ÿ™‚ Very professional and readable. I can speak 3 languages and I’m fluent in 2, so I understand your frustration at not being able to speak the language you want whenever you want if the opportunity to speak it arises. However it also makes sense to me that people who don’t understand what is being said feel uncomfortable. You speak in another language, that must mean you’re saying something bad about them! It’s a very self-centered but common reaction. Just tell yourself they envy your ability to speak another language ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks! That’s what I was going for. I kinda like the minimalist look.

      What languages do you speak? I think sometimes I use Spanish with certain people in public or not without even thinking about it twice. When I hear others speak different languages in front of me, I notice but think nothing of it. I definitely don’t think they’re talking about me. Surely they have more interesting things to talk about :b That kind of reaction IS self-centered, and hopefully, the people that think that way will realize that other people speaking a different language in front of them doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And if they dont’, well, we can always shrug it off.

      • I will keep this civil.

        I don’t appreciate for the first time in U.S. history; one people comming here and demanding i learn their language.

        You feel you are special. Be American. You are so arrogant. Why ?

  2. Hi Yesenia, I just found your blog and I love it! We are living Spanglish over here too, so I can relate to this post. I’m not a native speaker, but my ex-husband is and my three youngest children are. When my oldest son was small we spoke both languages at home regularly. When he was having trouble learning to read in second grade the school tried to tell us that it wasn’t because he had a learning disability (he did), it was our fault for “confusing” him with two languages. Trust me, when I was done screaming, they never brought that argument up again and got him the help he actually needed. But I credit the many little incidents like this for being why he lost touch with the language as he got older. I think he was constantly pressured to put his “other” language away and grew to feel embarrassed by it. He was the only Latino student in his school until sixth grade, and then he was one of three. Today he is a young adult who still understands most of what is said to him, but can’t speak it himself. This is one of my great regrets as his parent because I feel he has lost an important piece of himself. I only hope one day he will make the decision to go back to it and learn again. You are providing a wonderful example for your child and I commend you for it.

    • Hey Kelly! That’s awesome that you learned to speak Spanish.

      I can’t believe the school told you that. If anything, being fluent in a different language will be a tremendous help for learning a new one. I’m certified to teach second-language learners, and you’re supposed to encourage parents to read to their child in the native language. It must have been tough being the only Latino in his school. I can see how that made him not want to identify with his native language anymore. Hopefully, though, as he gets older he will begin to appreciate the culture and language again.

      I actually have three younger brothers who didn’t really speak English when they were younger. The oldest has since then recaptured his pride in his Latino culture and learned to speak, read, and write in Spanish. The younger ones still struggle to even understand what is being said to them, and they speak very little, often riddled with mistakes. However, I can already see them feeling more pride in being Latino. Maybe the next step will be trying to speak it more.

      I really hope the same happens with your son. I bet it will, especially as he grows into an adult. Meanwhile, all we can do is keep showing our own pride ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for stopping by, Kelly, and sharing your thoughts with us.

  3. Carey Heywood says:

    Hi Yesenia, my mother is Belgian. I grew up speaking French until it annoyed my dad because he could not understand what we were saying and he asked my mom to stop. It is a huge regret for her that she did. My French today is okay but I can’t understand people when they speak fast. Being fluent in a second language is something I admire. When I hear people speaking another language around me I am more envious than anything else. I can see people being paranoid about someone talking about them, but let’s face it speaking only English wouldn’t stop that. There are plenty of other ways to talk about someone if you really needed to. Great blog! Keep speaking Spanish ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You speak French? How neat? (That part of your book makes sense now!) I took French in middle school, and I still remember some words and phrases! I’d love to be fluent in it ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m sorry to hear what happened. If anything, we should be more embracing of new languages. Like you, I’d be more eager to learn it than be suspicious of people talking about me. And then I think: Surely, there are a gazillion things more important for them to talk about. No need to give myself such importance! I agree. You’ll always be talked about no matter what. People will go on and do it behind your book if they can’t do it in front of you! I will keep speaking Spanish! Siguire hablando espanol! (Ole! LOL)

  4. I disagree with you.
    If you live in California, Spanish has become a plague.
    Billboards and advertisements EVERYWHERE, Spanish language radio and tv channels, people who refuse to learn English because the media caters to them.
    It’s worse if you’re a Latina/o or appear to look like one.
    People will walk up to you and speak to you in Spanish, and when you tell them that you don’t speak spanish, they give you a rude look and walk away.
    I mean, how RUDE is that? They’re getting mad that we don’t speak THEIR language in OUR country.

    It’s simple, they need to learn ENGLISH. The language here in America is ENGLISH.
    My ancestors probably spoke one of the many native languages of this country, but that isn’t the case anymore.

    • Thanks for disagreeing and providing another perspective. People can be rude no matter what language they speak, and I don’t like it when people make someone else feel poorly because of speaking/not speaking a language.

      However, I do disagree with you on one point. You’re right. It is OUR country. We are lucky to have people of all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and cultures, who speak so many awesome languages. I think that, for a long time, we haven’t been a country who’s language is or should be solely English.

      I’ve yet to see a person who refuses to learn English. Embarrassed because they struggle, yes. Hating it? No. Yes, non-English speakers should learn English (and they are). English speakers should also learn other languages. If just for expanding one’s horizons. I speak English, Spanish, and I’m learning French ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks again for your views, Robyn.

    • I live in Denver Colorado where there is a large Latino population, and I’ve never experienced anything like this before. Really. I have had parents bring their children along to translate because they were too embarrassed to speak broken English, but never have they been upset that I don’t speak Spanish. Also, who the heck are you to assume that they refuse to learn English? It’s not like you just go to a store and buy the English language… It’s a lengthy process!

      More importantly, Robyn, there is no official language of the USA. you are right that this is OUR country, and we can speak what we want. We make the laws. Let’s push for bilingualism. At the very least, we’ll be enhancing our cultural status by speaking two beautiful languages.

  5. archana says:

    I would like to share my view on the topic. I am Indian and know three languages, English, Hindi and Tamil. When I first moved to the United States 7 years ago, my sister who had moved before I did adviced me that I should not talk in my native language with another Indian if there are known people around who do not understand the language. At first, it was very difficult but I learnt to follow her advice. Now 7 years later, we are three colleagues who share an office. The other 2 speak arabic and I do not understand it. Innumerable times I find myself in the middle of Arabic conversations. Initially, I was ok with it but it has been a year now and find it very frustrating. I feel I am left out.
    So my take on the matter is this. We should absolutely promote native languages etc, however it is a matter of courtesy that when a third person is present , not to speak in a language they do not understand. If the third person is an unknown person (for eg. talking in a public area in your native language) I do not think is a problem and additionally it is only a temporary event for the third person. Kudos to my sister for teaching me common courtesy.

    • I see your point and agree, Archana. And I try not to do that. However, some people can be rude when asking you to stop speaking your native language. Some people seem to think you’re talking about them when that’s not true at all. If I’m having a conversation with a friend in public and there happens to be someone else there, I shouldn’t have to switch to English. I should speak in whatever language feels more comfortable, or usually, whatever language the original thoughts simply came in. It just happens, and I don’t feel I should change that because others feel I’m talking about them. I’m around people of other cultures/languages all the time, and I don’t feel the least bit comfortable around them when I hear them speaking their language. In fact, I’m fascinated.

      • archana says:

        Hi Yesenia,
        Thanks for your quick reply. I agree that many people are intolerant of anything that is foreign to them and those are the people who are rude. But I know quite a few people who suffer the way I do and don’t mention the issue because of the fear of sounding rude. I too feel fascinated with other languages, however only when I am not part of the conversation and it is not a recurring event with the same people. If that is the case, atleast they should share what they are talking about once they are done talking in their language. I actually do this when I am forced to talk in a foreign language when a third person is present. I agree with you about talking in the language you like in public. In short, I think alot depends on the situation – we should be courteous to others and their feelings but at the same time promote the language that best expresses our feelings and opinions.

        I think maybe I should share with my colleagues what I feel. “I do not mean to offend you guys but I would really appreciate it, if you can talk in English when I am around. Otherwise I feel very left out.” What do you think? Thanks. Archana

        • I agree. If I know the person, I will most likely share or include them in the first place. Often times, this kind of thing has happened when another person and I have already been having a conversation and then another person arrived. It’s all in the way you ask. I would probably never ask someone to switch languages. I’d just make small talk when they were done. If somebody asked me in a nice way, of course I’d switch and/or explain what we were talking about if they asked. I think that’s what this is all about. How people approach one another when it comes to these things, you know?

          • archana says:

            Yes, yes….
            I will give an example of the situation I am in…..I am having a conversation with one of them and the other person enters the room and starts talking in Arabic. I do not wish to be rude because I am facing colleague 1 and so continue to face that direction but this conversation of theirs can last 5-10 mins. Sometimes I have asked them what they were talking about and I think that is hint enough but they don’t seem to catch on. After a while I started turning away and would continue on with my work and suddenly I would be asked a question and be included in the conversation in English and the same thing would happen again.
            Thus I am not a very happy person at work!!

          • archana says:

            Thanks for your input Yesenia. I need to think about what I can do about this. Cause I really like my colleagues but its this one thing.

          • That kind of thing is rude! I would never do that, including someone in the conversation briefly then excluding them again. Honestly, I’d talk to them about it and be upfront about not wanting to be rude and this not being a racial/language issue. Just an issue of if you’re being included in the conversation, you’d like to understand what else is being said. Maybe they don’t even realize what they’re doing. You don’t want to be miserable at work, you know? Anyway, it’s been a good discussion!

  6. Lady Galaga says:

    Have you also noticed that people take issue with Spanish more than other languages? It’s not a matter of racism, it’s a matter of Spanish as a language of trash talk, gossip, and other useless small talk. It’s not offensive when someone switches to Spanish so they can help a customer or better communcate something important to a coworker who is struggling with English. And if only that was why people switched to Spanish, whites would not find it offensive in the same way they don’t find it offensive when, say, two coworkers switch to Arabic.

    No, the problem is coworkers more often than not switch to Spanish so they can engage in chismes, joke around, talk about celebrities, whatever. THIS is why it’s offensive, and why the bigotry card needs to be thrown away in this issue.

    • I have noticed that, but where I live, there is a high Hispanic population anyway and not many other ethnicities. What you’re talking about (the gossip/talking about that person), I’ve heard/seen Hispanic people do, and I think it’s obvious to those who don’t understand the language. Perhaps that’s why they feel that way towards all Spanish speakers who speak Spanish in front of them. Do all people do that? No, but there’s a group of people who will always take offense anyhow. Thanks for chiming in! Interesting points.

  7. hi, i’ve recently come across a situation similar to this. i work with several coworkers that speak another language. alot of joking, story telling, carrying on around the office. now, i have tons of respect for other cultures and nationalities and can sympathize. my parents came from another country and had to learn a new language. But my true feeling is that there is a time and place for this. when i’m in a work environment and everyone around me is making jokes and it really puts me off. i feel like i cannot approach those people without fear of them talking about me.
    I, being from another country and speaking another language, still feel it is not appropriate to speak this way at work. i have more consideration for the people around me then the need to speak in my native tongue with co workers. as fun as it might be.

    p.s. i don’t think telling other people to learn a second language is a solution to getting over it. it’s probably easier for all parties involved of you just think of their feelings before doing this.



  8. I’m not native English speaker. I was working with Latina girls. I felt extremely offended when they were screaming and laughing all day on the front of me. We were working in the small space. Once I asked if I could enjoy they conversation, they answered in spanish something like “la carne de cerdo”. Do you really guys think we don’t understand what are you talking about? I have a program in my phone, which catches phrases and gives me translation. It’s rude to talk other languages on the front of people who doesn’t understand you.

  9. Reynoldo Mejia says:

    I’ve started a new job where most latino’s are speaking spanish and I don’t understand it period one latino told me I should speak spanish cuz my name is a mexican name well sorry I don’t speak it,its hard to work with them and trying to figure out what they want done,told my boss he said ya its is hard to understand them but to adopt. then my P.R lady told me I could not use my nickname at work cuz I might file a discrimination suit against them, well I’ve been using my nickname for 30 some yrs now and never once had aproblem until now so whats wrong with this picture you tell me…

  10. First off, my wife is from South America, and my mother was a Spanish teacher (we are not latino), but she could speak fluently. Take all that for what it’s worth. That being said, I don’t think it is appropriate to speak Spanish socially in a workplace in America if it isn’t part of your job to do so. I work in NYC, so I hear it all the time. One of my best friends at work speaks to his mom in Spanish all day on the phone. My old boss was dominican. I feel like it is as rude as whispering in front of other people, because it IS exclusive simply because many Americans do not understand that language. Also, another angle is that many of the governments of Latin/South America ARE inferior to ours. cartels, corruption, bribes, etc. Perhaps some people are afraid that as we have more and more Latin culture influence in America that we are becoming one step closer to those negative things. There is a reason people risk their lives to cross our borders from the south. That being said, Yo estudie Espanol en escuela secondaria y yo gusto muchas cosas de la cultura! Some of that might have been wrong, since I didn’t use a translator, that was off the top of my head. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope I didn’t offend anyone. One last ironic thought is: the more Spanish is spoken in America, the worse it is for many native Spanish speakers in America whose biggest asset for getting a job here was being able to communicate in Spanish. Now it really isn’t special.

  11. I live in England and on my team at work, I am the only native English speaker. Although I don’t suspect my colleagues of speaking ill about me, I actually find it incredibly isolating when they speak in Gujarati around me on a constant basis because I am the only person who does not understand what is being said. I don’t think I should be made to feel that way working for a British company in England.

    However, we also work in a customer-facing role and it is company policy that English must be used on the shop floor at all times except when communicating directly with a customer who does not speak English. I have received countless complaints from customers who have felt uncomfortable or unable to approach staff because they were not speaking English and it has lost us numerous sales.

    I can’t involve myself in discussions or casual banter with my team members at all and it acts as a hindrance in terms of team-building because it creates a “me” and “them” atmosphere which isn’t pleasant to work in. Whether it’s conscious or not, speaking in a language which is not common to everybody makes a statement about who they’re willing to allow in their social group. I often feel very lonely at work.

  12. I think those people that asked you to speak spanish in front of them are right… I am a Congolese and we have 400 tribes/languages in the country we use 4 local plus French to communicate with people from other tribes. I grew up speaking swahili and french but my wife cannot speak swahili, so whenever she is around if my family members are visiting us, we speak Lingala because it is a language she understands. This is not because we say bad things about her but this is to avoid her believing so… I feel bad when I am with people that speak a language I don’t understand and I believe it is the same for them… Older people tend to speak their languages in front of people that don’t understand it and believe me most of the time they are saying bad things right in front of them… But for us younger generations we think it is not right to do so, thus whenever a third person comes that does not so=peak the language we were speaking we switch to a language we can all understand…

  13. I recently started working at a restaurant and I understand most Spanish but it’s hard to speak the language. More than half of my coworkers only speak Spanish so it’s hard to communicate with them. However some of them don’t know that I understand when they speak Spanish so they talk badly of me to other coworkers right in front of me and treat me unfairly. They are nice to each other but exclude me from everything because I don’t speak Spanish. They say that I don’t know how to do anything (maybe if they trained me in English I would know), they tell others that they don’t like me, they always stare at me speaking Spanish to each other and laugh. And when they ask “hablas espanol?” and I reply “a little bit” they roll their eyes and sigh loudly. Just because I don’t speak Spanish doesn’t mean I should be treated like shit every time I work. I think it should be mandatory for all employees to at least know basic english when working in America because if I were to work in a Spanish speaking country I would make an effort to only speak Spanish to customers and coworkers.

  14. This has become one of the most annoying and distracting thing for me at work. I don’t care that I don’t understand what people are saying. I don’t WANT to know because I don’t CARE what they are talking about. My complaint is the sound itself of a foreign language in the workplace is extremely distracting to me. It doesn’t bother me if I’m out in the street, or in a store, of if it’s in a lunchroom, but in an office setting I don’t want to hear it. I’m trying to concentrate on my work, and to hear that non-stop yakking….

  15. To have someone look at you, speak Spanish to someone else then start to laugh, there is a feeling that they are laughing at you. Or, when as an employer, you give instruction to an employee and they then start a 2 minute dialog in spanish with another employee to evaluate what I said or disagree with what I need done, this is inconsiderate and actually dangerous. What are they planning to do/say? As an employer, I wanted only English speaking employee’s as mistakes are more prominent as translating is trouble. Learn the base language and assimilate.

  16. I think in most situations, it is alright to speak whatever language you choose. That’s part of freedom of speech. My mother is an immigrant who has trouble with English, so when conversing Chinese is our common language. It’s not that we can’t hold a conversation in English, its just that its less convenient.

    That being said, as an employer, I would like people in my company to speak English, so that everyone can understand each other. But this is hardly universal. My wife’s real estate agency deals mostly with Chinese students, and so it is actually a major competitive advantage for them to speak Chinese regularly.

  17. Some of my students speak Spanish in front of my Asian student and me and then they laugh. It doesn’t bother me but it is rude and hurtful to the Asian student.

    I need to know how to approach this without hurting anyone’s feelings.

    Thank you.

  18. I’ m sorry but I feel most of this is crap. In all of the departments I’ve been in everyone there spoke great English and spanish is used maliciously to exclude one or more persons to make them feel left out. Its like this smug power trip to go out of your way to make a few English speaking people feel like shit and left out of the updates, stories or a joke. Bottom line, common sence proves it is obviously ettiquettly RUDE and is used as a tool to screw with someone. So spare me denial and excuses for it. Its like a novela of mean girls. I would also classify it as a form of some kind of immature high school bullying. Same in the work place applies. I even got apologized to once being told,” oh sorry, its not about you, we do this to get to Linda!” Well it does affect me too, it is rude, distracting, and very annoying. Bright talented women, but no work place class or etiquette. Yep, you’re right, you can do something I can’t do.. You gotta private story, call her after work about it, if you can’t share the joke, then tell them in private on your break away from others like I have to do.. Spare me the innocence.. In one department I work with half Vietnamese, including our supervisor, when one of our coworkers tried talking Vietnamese, she stopped her politely and told her English.. She didn’t have to be asked, she knew it was rude to the rest of the team.. Very progressional and classy.

  19. Hello anyone, I keep hearing people say my native tongue… If you were born in America is not that your native tongue.. I understand family migration I think! however i do know of people who use words that are slang in their other than English language so you can’t follow the Conversation I think it’s rude or at best thoughtless. I had one very nice Mexican Lady who looked Asian working with me last year no one knew she was Mexican until one day they heard her speaking Spanish to a customer.She had already told me months earlier that some of the worker talked very demeaning conversation about us . after hearing her speak Spanish I think some were ashamed of comments they made right in front of our face. YOU NEVER KNOW WHO KNOWS WHAT OR HOW THEY WILL USE IT. BE POLITE. THANK YOU

  20. Unfortunately i had the very samething happen to me twice in my 27 years. The first time was my daughters grandmother, she is Caucasian. The way she said it is what surprised me. She said “this is GD America and we speak English here”. All because i asked my daughter to get her outfit in Spanish. Normally i speak to my 2 kids in Spanish then in English so that they will learn both but i didn’t that time.
    The second incident was at Montgomery community college in Troy NC. The dental assisting instructor told me and another Spanish speaker to not speak Spanish during class nor lab. This was due to two Caucasian 19 year olds that automatically assumed we were talking about them. That and because they didn’t like not being able to understand us. I don’t feel it fair that the school was okay with what i consider discrimination on sole basis of students accusing us of talking about them just because they are self absorbed and felt the world is about them. I couldn’t have cared less to talk about them at all. God is witness of it. Sad thing is i saw them as talented young ladies but both immature and filled with drama, ignorance, and one walked around with the feeling of entitlement. The way i see this is whether or not someone is talking about another in english or any language they have the right to do so if they wish to waste their saliva on it. Its is their birth right to speak their mind and freedom of speech. They have their rights to opinions but i also have my freedom of speech right. They were American and i am also a born citizen therefore the instructor nor school should have gotten involved in such petty drama and attention seeking girls. When someone speaks another language it doesnt affect me in any way and i dont accuse or assume that they are talking about me. Like i, i am sure they have better topics of conversation than those that arent able to understand their language. Due to all of these petty dramas of girls that obviously had something against me due to their ignorance, maybe even racism, insecurity, and conceded attitudes i was not able to graduate with my dental assisting diploma being it caused the instructor to have a biased attitude and judgments. She later dismissed me on other false accusations but in my heart and gut i know that it all comes down to this language issue and accusations/complaints of those certain young ladies. They were always kissing the teachers butt and it was obvious the instructor showed preference and she really did treat us 3 minorities very differently from the Caucasian students.

    Back to the language thing. It is a very hurtful situation, this has marked me for the rest of my life. Especially coming from a college and school program because they are supposedly so highly educated and open to diversity yet they failed me. I paid out of pocket for all of my classes at that school and was treated so badly in that program. No one helped even when i turned to them for help. I went to the counselor, president, vp of the school but no one helped resolve the issue.

    This language situation was the worst school experienced i ever had in my 27 years. Even my daughters grandmother who once said something against my Spanish felt that they were out of line and that its not of their concern what i am talking about when its not their conversation.

    I have been discriminated against quite often but i believe this has been the most hurtful. Spanish is a part of me and its not right to tell me not to speak it just because you dont understand it. I learned english and speak little french so if it bothers those people so much not to understand it then maybe they should learn it. Doesnt hurt anything if anything itll open their career possibilities unlike us where it only gets us a job but doesnt give us a pay difference. Any place i worked at that isnt manufacturing always paid the Caucasians more.

    Pt is its an awful experience and i wish it on no one.

    • I watched a high school class in which a majority of students were socializing in Spanish. The couple of kids who didn’t speak Spanish didn’t think that they were being talked about, but they certainly were excluded from the conversation. They sat in social isolation because the teacher allowed socializing while they were working (which is fine), but speaking a language that was not inclusive of all students created an environment that negatively impacted others. I’m not promoting the banning of a language, but I think as a society, we should find ways so that no one feels discriminated against. Perhaps this is wishful thinking in all cases, but if the solution in such a case like this is easy (everyone speaking the language that is commonly known), I’m not sure what the benefit would be of demanding to speak the language only known by some.

  21. Yesenia, you’re the best! I’m on your side 1000%. Years ago I worked at a very diverse company and was told to not speak Spanish while at work in a social way or even discuss work related issues with other Spanish speaking employees. Why? Because one person there was offended because she didn’t understand what we were saying and it made her feel like we were talking about her. Because Spanish comes naturally to me like breathing, we would talk in Spanish without giving it a second thought. Once it dawned on me that yes it can be rude, I put myself in her place and we stopped out of respect. I felt bad because it never occurred to me since it just comes natural and we never did it to speak negatively about anyone, it was just general chit chat or work stuff that just felt better to talk about in Spanish. I think that’s something only anyone bilingual or + can understand. Since then, I take precautions and explain after or include the person or turn the conversation into English even though sometimes it takes a minute to “click” because again, Spanish comes natural.

    Since that time, I’ve encountered people that are just prejudice and hate anyone not European descent to begin with. That’s their problem, not mine (thankfully) but out of respect, I speak English UNLESS I’m translating which most of my jobs have required of me.

    In my current job which I love and enjoy, it is also required of me with customers on the phone to speak Spanish. I work with one lady who LOVES to literally YELL out, “THIS IS AMERICA, SPEAK ENGLISH!” It irritates me that she yells it like that because to me, that is the aspect that makes it disrespectful and just as rude as speaking a language socially in the workplace that others do not understand. If another employee comes in that speaks mainly Spanish, as before, it’s just second nature to say “hola, Como estas?” And from there I always make a conscious effort to switch to English because if I were in her shoes I would also feel uncomfortable. Personally, I don’t CARE because you can speak whatever you want. Pig Latin, Cantonese, Tamil, Farsi, whatever language you wish to speak, all jumbled together if you want. But out of respect for those in the workplace, speak the general language. I agree that learning a language, is especially difficult and it can take years. Therefore, it is understandable that someone who speaks broken English prefers their native tongue when it is available. It’s a comfort, a relief. Coming to AMERICA; land of the free, home of the brave is ALSO a comfort, a relief, from wherever that person came from because last I checked, that’s what AMERICA IS FOR. Am I wrong? If so, prove it to me and I’ll accept it as fact. That’s a general statement, not aimed at you offensively in anyway.

    It boils down to common courtesy and respect. People come here to escape, improve, get a taste of the infamous “American Dream”. These people are adults, are they not? As adults, it’s much more difficult to learn new things, much more an entire language with so many grammatical confusions. It takes time. Not only are you new in a foreign land you now wish to make your home, you’re bombarded with changes in every aspect of life, add to that the aforementioned need to learn the language. That’s a hell of a lot to deal with. It takes this thing we all have a love/hate relationship with called TIME. Not being understanding of that is insensitive and unrealistic. People come here in many cases, in haste. They don’t care about anything else but escaping the evil they’re in now and setting foot in America, where the streets are supposedly paved with gold. Someone show me that street, por favor.
    At the end of the day, it’s about The Golden Rule. We all know it. In every language.

  22. My mother is german and my father spanish. My father never learned me how to speak spanish, instead he learned me english. Last month i was in spain to visit the family of my father. 80% of the time the conversations were in spanish and i didnt understand shit. This bothered me because i felt left out, which caused me not wanting to speak at all

  23. I work in food service and most of the employees are Mexican. The majority speak, read and write English. Some of them may feel more comfortable with Spanish but they certainly knew enough English to get through a pretty lengthy interview.

    As the minority there I am American and speak English as a first language. I have worked for many years and am surprised that I have lived to see the day when I feel like I am in another country. English is only spoken to me and Spanish appears to be the unofficial language there. It is embarrassing to be in the middle of a conversation with someone and another employee walks up and begins speaking Spanish and I am left hanging. Talk about having no class. At this point, it appears as if the best way for management to handle this issue, would be for me to quit. But I may try suing just to see what the outcome would be.

  24. Judy B. says:

    Hello Yesenia:
    Our Church is running into the same problem. We use to be 90% English and 10% Latino and now we are about 70% Latino and 30% Spanish. I had a friend who was very upset because she was sitting at a table with about five Latino’s but they were all speaking English with her. No problem. Then, another Latino came up and spoke in Spanish and everyone switched to Spanish. She got upset and left. I think the way to handle it is if you speak only Spanish and a mixed group is speaking English. The Latino should signal to one of the participants that she would like to speak to one of them privately, and the same should happen if a English speaking person wants to speak to a Latino group. Mutual respect goes a long way toward peace. between different cultures.

  25. Hi Yesinia , my name is Melvin I’m 24 years old ,is funny because I just got kicked out of my barber class for speaking Spanish , I only been in class for 3 weeks and everyday my teachers has told me to stop speaking Spanish with other classmates , today I had enough and told her that this is a free country and I can speak what I want. So I went to the office and filed a grivience against her .

  26. The reason people ask other not to speak their native language around them, is that it is unprofessional, rude and excludes peers. I know a little Spanish, and when coworkers speak it around me, I catch little snippets I understand. Most of the time what I can make out is not pertaining to work, and I do understand enough derogatory terms, that I know they are insulting people at times. Why should this be considered acceptable behavior? Why would anyone consider it rude to ask people to stop? The hard truth is that for the vast majority of Americans, English is the De facto language. Why would you insist on speaking another language in a setting where you know most people are likely not going to be able to understand you? You may mean no harm, but many people will not see it that way. I don’t know of any people who will not learn English when they arrive here, but I do know several who decline to learn enough of it to communicate in a reasonable fashion, even worse I know of a few that have used it as a crutch to get away with stuff. Such as not being able to read signs, understand directions, etc. this can be very frustrating for English speakers when confronted with this type of behavior,when the simplest answer is to have them learn English fluently.

  27. if you’re in american speak english. it’s rude and most of the time when mexicans are around black people, you say racist things about them. most of your people are anti black as well, so don’t come on here and act lie you’re ”offended” when someone finally puts you in your place

  28. Hi All,
    I recently have taken a job as a night time manager at a production facility. Now, I would never tell someone not to speak their native tongue in a social environment, but in a work environment it is a necessity. As a manager of a full production facility there are many things that I need to be aware of as the night progresses. When the entire plant is speaking Spanish this limits my reaction time to having to translate in my head what is being said. So I asked my company to put in place an English-only policy. I was told that they could not do that and that they would enroll me in a Rosetta Stone course.
    I must say this has really pissed me off. For myself and one other English-only speaking individual, they expect us to learn another language. I am all for learning and at one point I was fluent in Spanish when I was younger. Due to lack of practice, I have since lost my fluency. The point of this is that it is asked on every job application if you are fluent in english, not in Spanish.
    I have a pass down meeting with the other shift manager and her backup. When they speak Spanish, I translate in my head and answer in English. They tell me I should just speak Spanish. Once again this is very unsettling. I explain my native tongue is English and I will speak my native tongue in America, we have that right. They both roll their eyes and say to me in Spanish that I will eventually give in.
    I am thinking about quitting my job because of feeling that as an English speaker I am discriminated against at work. I once told my team specific directions to be followed and after my backup translated it to Spanish a comment was made. Because the employee didn’t know I could understand Spanish he felt free to say that I was a stupid gringo and I didn’t know what I was doing. It is the ugliness of things like this that also contribute to wanting to have an English-only policy at work.