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To Continue Reading in English, press ‘1’…

November 29, 2010

Is there anything more boring than reading another person’s freewrite? That’s a rhetorical question. Yes, there are lots of things more boring than reading someone else’s freewrite and in fact, depending on who the person is, their freewrites can be entertaining and make for good reading. So here I am on the morning of Day 29 of NaBloPoMo and I’m finding my mind a blank. I’m not up coming with anything to blog about but I can’t just phone it in with only one day left to go and I’m feeling the pressure mount. Should I just post a freewrite?

I try. I think, I concentrate, I contemplate, I dwell, I brood. I do it all and I don’t come up with anything and I get a little anxious. Aside from John McCain calling for regime change in North Korea – a topic that’s too depressing for me to think about right now – even the news this morning isn’t any help.

Then I called the gas company. This past Saturday I received two statements in the mail. To my eye they looked identical but I didn’t want to just throw one statement away on the assumption they made a mistake, so I called them this morning. What got me about the call wasn’t the electronic maze of button-pushing I had to navigate to reach a real person, it was the very first button I was asked to push.

“For English, press ‘1’ or just stay on the line. Para Espanol, marque el dos.”

The United States doesn’t have an official national language and whether or not the country should have an official language is an interesting debate. I’m not going to weigh in on that topic here, but I’d certainly enjoy reading anyone’s thoughts and comments on the topic. I recognize the country doesn’t have an official language and I also understand and appreciate that the nation is a melting pot. I feel fortunate to be a part of a nation that celebrates such a rich cultural diversity and I take pride in both of those realities. But English is still the primary language spoken in the United States and I don’t know why I should have to press ‘1’ to continue in the primary language of the country to speak to a representative of a company that’s based in the United States. I have no problem with hearing, “Para Espanol, marque el dos”, or instructions in any language for that matter, after being greeted by the computerized answering system, but  I don’t think I should have to press ‘1’ to continue my call in English.

(Freewrite portions of the message were revised and cleaned up for this posting)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2010 1:43 pm

    I have to agree. I have been told my thoughts on this subject are kind of “snobby” but how is America different now than it was 100 years ago in the fact that the people that came through Ellis Island were expected to learn English if they wanted to thrive in America? I think it’s a dishonor to all those people to have everything in this country modified now to also include the Spanish language. I understand that there are more people here of Spanish decent now but why are they so much more privileged over the people that came here before? I just don’t understand it. And even though English is spoken the world over, if I were to go and live in France or Germany, I would be expected to at least be able to read French or German so that I could get by in every day life.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 30, 2010 8:38 am

      I agree with everything you say. I don’t think it’s an issue of excluding anyone from anything, it’s a matter of inclusion.


  2. November 29, 2010 11:32 pm

    Regarding getting a human on the phone, try – you type in a company name and it gives you direct lines or which buttons to press to bypass the labyrinth of “press this” and “press that.”

    And what AprilG said above. *smile*


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 30, 2010 8:30 am

      Great link, thank you for sharing it!


  3. November 29, 2010 11:32 pm

    Michael, This is a topic that sets me off. I live in a small suburb of Chicago, about 15 miles from downtown. You ask me where I’m from and I say “Chicago”.

    Chicago is second only to Warsaw in population of Poles.

    Cook County “which includes the Chicago area)has the third largest Arab-American population in the U.S.

    The Bridgeview Mosque Foundation is the largest Arab-American community in the Midwestern U.S., second to Detroit Michigan. (The Bridgeview Mosque is less than 5 miles from my home)

    There are strip malls all over this area that cater to the Polish and Arab-American populations. There is bank in town that everything is written in Polish.

    But when I make a phone call the promters never give me instructions on which number to press for Polish or Arabic.

    What do these citizens do?

    I went to to a major department store today and they were playing Christmas music….in another language.

    I don’t mean to offend anyone I realy don’t, but things do not seem balanced to me.

    I am proud to live in a city with so much diversity. But, c’mon already with the press 1 for English.



    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 30, 2010 8:29 am

      I agree with you, Mo. I don’t want to exclude Spanish-speaking people from anything, but what about other non-English speakers? Minnesota has something like the largest (or second largest) Hmong population in the country and I’ve never heard Hmong language options when I’ve called local businesses. It’s like April mentioned about moving to another country. If I were to move to another country I’d do what I could to learn the language as fast as I could and not expect others to change for me.


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