I just got home from a friend’s place here in Quito, and wanted to get this thought I had on my taxi ride home down on paper before I go to bed. Here’s what just happened:
I was out with a fellow US expat this evening, and we parted ways on the street where I caught a taxi to take me home and he was going to walk the other direction to get to his apartment. I got in the taxi, said “buenas noches” to the driver, and then it occured to me to offer my friend a ride back to his place, even though I was going a different direction. So I rolled down the window (we were at a stoplight), and called out to my friend in English to ask if he wanted a lift. We had a quick exchange in English, he declined my offer, and I drove off in my cab. Upon rolling up the window, I quickly and without a second thought gave directions to my destination in Spanish to the driver and we engaged in polite small talk.
A couple minutes into the ride, a thought occurred to me. I often see videos posted of people in the United States going on rampages when they hear people speaking languages other than English in public places. This most commonly happens with Spanish being the language spoken. I have seen countless videos of people swearing at non-English speakers and shouting at them to go back to their country, and that they are not welcome here. That in America, we speak English.
What a horrible thing. I have lived in several countries, and I have never experienced that type of language shaming. It would make me feel awful if someone were to shout at me or treat me with hostility simply for speaking in my native tongue. And why shouldn’t we speak in whatever language we want? What is wrong with me speaking English to a fellow English speaker, even though we are in a country where they speak Spanish? The answer is: nothing. There is nothing wrong with that, and no one here seems to have a problem with it. Even if English were the official language of the USA, which it is NOT, why does that even matter? What happened to the freedom of speech?