Last week at church was Stake Conference for our area; various Wards getting together to hear our local Priesthood leadership speak. There were translators on hand to accommodate Spanish speaking members in attendance which meant audio/visual requirements would have to accommodate the streaming of Spanish into television sets and head phones in rooms set up for them.
I was recently called as an assistant Stake Clerk/IT specialist; in other words, getting cables and audio/visual equipment set up for presentations; satellite transmission, internet or other similar events. The equipment room has all manner of fancy gizmos with cables running in and out, here and there and everywhere; how unfortunate, looks similar to the way my stereo, cable television and DVD are wired. If you listen closely you might hear an old Beatles’ tune, Helter-Skelter, playing amidst the chaos.
Several of us were hooking up cables, checking audio signals and making sure the camera transmission was working prior to the actual conference. I happen to mention how it was probably a good thing I wasn’t a member of the Stake Presidency as I would be putting pressure on the various Bishops to have Spanish speaking members learn English. My remark must have landed on a raw nerve; there was a cold silence where some kind of conversation normally would have happened.
During the week I was thinking about that conversation, the one which never came about. I challenged myself to figure out why my suggestion garnered such a negative reaction. The language in the United States is English and while we have immigrants from nearly every nation on the planet; English is the language used by the vast majority. English is also the “preferred language”, the language which enables folks to climb out of the depths of poverty and achieve substantial rewards in most areas of our society.
If I were planning to live in a foreign country it would be important for me to learn the language of that country; French if I were planning to move to France, German for Germany and so on. Those who wish to be assimilated into any society must first learn the language of that society; either that or accept the fact they will forever be relegated as second class members, being denied full status and privileges. The assumption on my part is these folks wish to eventually be assimilated, become equal partakers in all aspects of our society. If this is not the case then why bother leaving their country of origin?
As a church it would seem a natural extension of leadership to point this aspect of assimilation to those attending meetings. How difficult would it be to have Bishops invite Spanish speaking members to attend on-going English as a second language classes? We certainly have talented people who could be called as instructors, folks who would jump at a chance to improve the lives of fellow church members. Individuals who learned to speak English would make themselves eligible for upward mobility within the natural framework of our society and could only benefit from having made such an effort.
There is no intent to ridicule individuals who speak only Spanish or the culture from which he/she came. The recommendation is to have these individuals adjust to the society which they now find themselves in rather than remain dependent as a result of their not understanding our language. Up until now I’ve directed my remarks mostly toward Spanish speaking individuals; but the same holds true regardless of one’s primary home language. Those who are easily offended will continue to be easily offended; not much I can do other than accept the laws which govern percentages.
Perhaps my communication and diplomacy skills could use improvement; being direct and to the point is not always the best course of action. In any event, it would be better for my brothers and sisters who are imprisoned, not by cell walls; but their inability to be completely assimilated into our predominantly English speaking society, the society of a nation blessed beyond measure by the Lord for any and all who wish to climb as far and as high as is individually possible. Learn to speak and understand English and watch as your efforts are rewarded beyond your wildest dreams.
This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.