Issue 01: Multiculturalism
The 2005 entries were originally written for the journal I kept in WST 3015/Intro to Women's Studies. They have been modified slightly since then.

2005 November 16, 7:17 pm

Mom and I went to Arby's for lunch and stood behind two men in line. From their dress, they were apparently workers from the construction site next door. A manager-on-duty was taking their order.

The manager asked what they wanted, and one of the men— the only one really communicating with the manager, in fact— took some time before he said, "Chicken." I guessed from the hesitation and the accent that he spoke Spanish and little English. Arby's also has several chicken meals, and he hadn't specified which. The manager asked which one, and the man didn't reply, so the manager seemed to understand and pointed to one of the combos. "This one? Cinco?" The man responded yes to that and to the manager asking if he wanted Coke, size "grandé?"

They also were able to communicate with each other that the two men were ordering together, and that the other man wanted the same thing to eat. There was confusion, however, after the orders came out, and the first man laughed and indicated they needed more than just two, "cinco" again, because they were apparently picking up meals for three other workers. A woman working the next register also used a little Spanish to ask if they wanted it for "aqui" or to go.

It was just fast food, but they might not have been able to get their order if the Arby's employees hadn't known a few basic Spanish words. I wouldn't have really understood the conversation, either, if I didn't remember those words from the two years of Spanish I took back in high school.

My class readings included discussions of this issue: the need for more people to be bilingual or multilingual. This was a simple matter of fast food, of course, but what if there had been an emergency? Those men might not have been able to explain to someone what the situation was, and other people may not have had the language skills to ask the right questions.

I'm not sure that our ESL programs are effective enough, either. For one, the teachers might not really be as prepared as they need to be, might not have good materials to work from, or they might not exist at all if there isn't enough funding. Aside from that, non-English speakers are likely to not have access to these classes if they can't enter the school system or are past public school age, and thus would have to pay for further education.

What do we do about the language barrier?

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This e-zine copyright © 2006 Immora. All other properties are copyright to their respective holders. E-zine originally created as a service learning project for WST 3930/Third Wave Feminisms. Project started on March 18 2006.