Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/eastvalleyopinions/articles/1210hemmingson1210.html

Darn Jorges - ¡Qué lástima!
Arizona Republic
Dec. 10, 2003

When you get to be a certain age, people ask whether you have any regrets.

I have one. I regret not taking my two years of high school Spanish more seriously.

I think maybe I was thrown off when all the guys were fighting over being called Jorge. Don't know why they all wanted to have that name.

The one phrase I took away from Spanish class was qué lástima. We used it in play acting where one of us said that our Uncle Tito had a cold and the other person said, qué lástima and that we hoped he got better soon.

I believe the phrase that stuck with me meant "what a shame," which is exactly how I'm feeling lately about not being able to speak Spanish.

One of these days, I'm going to be one of the few people in America who still uses English as a primary source of communication. Where will I be when English takes a back seat to Spanish? I'm seeing it already in businesses in south central Phoenix and even at parks on the west side. I saw a sign in a restroom, at a West Valley park, written in Spanish. The English version was underneath it.

Last year, I visited a Ross Dress for Less in Tempe. I was looking for belts. I asked an employee if she knew where the belts might be. She couldn't understand my question since she wasn't exactly fluent in English. I found this appalling.

I approached the manager of the store and explained to her that the employee could not help me find a belt because she didn't understand English.

The manager than explained to me, for my next visit to their store, how to ask for belts in Spanish.

You've got to be kidding me. I have to travel with an English/Spanish dictionary in order to shop at Ross. This is frightening.

Luckily, my daughter is learning Spanish in middle school and taking it seriously. Her teacher says she's a natural when it comes to picking up that language. That's why I'm Madre, my husband is Padre and her brother is Fran. Wait a minute. She calls him Fran just to annoy him. That's not Spanish at all. She is speaking Spanglish at home though. She says things like, "can I hablar with my friend?" and "familia, pass me that homework papel." She will have to serve as my translator when everyone around me abandons the English language.

It's interesting to hear my grandmother's stories about her parents, who came here from Slovenia. They were enthusiastic to learn English and did not allow themselves to speak Slovene. My grandmother as a child was discouraged from speaking her native tongue at home.

She and other Slovenian immigrants were encouraged to speak English, this country's language. It was not easy for them. Things were not written in English and Slovenian, to help them out. They were forced to learn the language spoken in the United States and they did.

Unfortunately, except for a few songs and some choice words, I didn't get to learn much Slovenian either.

It surely would have been nice if I had had some premonition in high school that Spanish was going to become such a widely used language in this country. Perhaps my Spanish teacher tried to tell me, but I was distracted by the 12 Jorges we had in class.

Who knew that every piece of printed paper in this country would be written in both languages?

Who knew that every taped phone message would give me the option of either English or Spanish? Who knew that I'd be hearing only Spanish spoken at the establishments I frequent?

I really regret not taking the time to learn Spanish. What can I say? ¡Qué lástima!

Mary Ann Hemmingson is a 22-year resident of the East Valley who has been a Tempe stay-at-home mom for 14 years. She can be reached at maboop@earthlink.net. The views expressed are those of the author.