culture/multiculturalism · Hispanics/Latinos · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · language · race/racism

Speaking English

A Jewish friend of mine is calling a cab to get home to Washington Heights. I ask her if she’s going to call a Dominican taxi service. I smile and say I only let Dominicans drive me. She just looks at me. (My Dad was a former taxi driver.)

Another Jewish friend says, “I think it’s so funny when I call one of those car services and they speak to me in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, I tell them.” She laughs. I laugh, too.

“That’s funny, they only speak to ME in English!” I say.

The third Jewish friend at the table says angrily, “I HATE when they do that. The worst is they make you press number 2 for English and number 1 for Spanish. Since when is Spanish number 1? This is America, they should be speaking English and English should be number 1.”

Her parents are immigrants, no less.

I could have said, “For most of the people in the neighborhood, Spanish is their native language. Most of the people who call the car service are Spanish speakers and/or Spanish-only speakers. They’re just making sure to cater to their clientele.”

But instead, despite the fact that she’s one of my closest friends, I hit her with my head covering. I didn’t even think, I just smacked her in the head with it.

“Ow,” she screeches.

After a couple of minutes, I apologize.

Then I say with a wide smile. “Don’t worry when Hispanics become the biggest minority in the country, we’ll all be speaking Spanish in no time. Maybe we’ll even have an official second language. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were like Europeans and we all spoke more than one language?”

“We’ll talk when that happens,” she says rubbing her head.

I go home and think about how I wish I had used words instead of my teal head scarf to get my point across. I discuss things with my always unusually calm husband. I’m hoping he’ll berate me for my lack of anger management skills.

My husband asks if I hit her hard.

I say yes with chagrin.

He says, “Good.”

P.S. “The United States does not have an official language.”

3 thoughts on “Speaking English

  1. Do you know of any good Spanish blogs by the way? I don’t have the energy to read anything very intense, but I used to be practically fluent and I’m starting to lose it.


  2. Nope, I don’t know of any good Latino blogs in Spanish. I know how you’re feeling on losing the language.The Spanish speakers in Washington Heights generally do a double take with me. They say something in Spanish and then follow it with English. I respond in Spanish. A lot of people will say, “You don’t look Dominican.”


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