Official languages of the US
<<I have to say that I strongly agree with Kirk about Spanish in the US, in that I see no indications that Spanish in the US won't go the way that German in the US went before it. Around the start of the twentieth century, it seemed to many that German would become a very major language here in the US, and yet in the end it eventually ended up getting replaced by English, albeit relatively recently in places such as here, where there was still German-speakers left two generations ago. And today, as much as Spanish may seem to be gaining influence in areas, simply due to large quantities of immigration by native Spanish-speakers, I don't see any reason why it won't eventually be replaced by English in the long run, like in the case of German.>>
Exactly. For example my hometown I grew up in is 30 percent Hispanic, with many (but not all) speaking Spanish to some degree. However, everyone from the generation born and raised here is at least bilingual in English and Spanish, for many both are their native languages. Also, in many cases English has become their dominant language but they can still understand a lot of Spanish. By the time you see the third and fourth generations, for better or worse, few speak Spanish at a competency that could be called fluency, and many only speak English. This fits in with immigration patterns we've always seen and isn't just a US thing either--this kind of thing has been happening all thruout human history because people move and adopt new languages, so I see little reason for the incidence of Spanish in the US the break the pattern. Also, one side note: Spanish will retain its position in the US as new Spanish speakers continue to arrive to the country, but if for whatever reason that eventually drops off, its days as a dominant language would likely be numbered in the US as has happened with all other immigration patterns, even mighty German of the 1800-early 1900s, which was proportionally spoken by a considerable minority in the US at that time, much like Spanish is today. I should stress I'm not stating my opinion on any of these phenomena--I'm simply describing what happens.
>Not so much what the languages of the country are meant to be but you have no idea how ultra conservative the USA is. [Kjell N]
I live in South Carolina, one of the most conservative states in the country, and I know for a fact that just how untrue nearly everything you have said is.
>Imagine living somewhere where nearly all the cars have the Jesus fish on them....
Nearly all? I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money that there's not a single state in the country where more than half the cars have such fishes on them. Some do, but when I see them, they catch my attention because most don't. (Mine doesn't.)
>teaching evolution is all but banned in schools and creationism is taught almost as fact
That's the exact opposite of the truth. Evolution (specifically Darwin's natural selection) is taught in every school district in the country, and has been for a long time. What makes news is when a pro-creationist group proposes the teaching of creationism along with natural selection as an alternative theory (not just as an error that preceded evolution). When that happens, this is news because it's banned in the public schools almost everywhere.
>you are totaly ostracised by your community if you don't go to church
I don't go to church and am not ostracized.
>racism is all pervasive
Ridiculous. I'm old enough to remember when that was true (decades ago). As a teenager I defied my community by opposing segregation and the system of Jim Crow that had prevailed in the South for nearly a century. There's quite a difference now, like night and day. There's some discrimination still, of course -- much of it actually pro-minority (there are laws that give preferences to minorities) -- but there's great freedom for all races. Blacks in the American South occupy all kinds of positions in both the private and public sector (mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs). Interracial couples are commonplace, walking down the street in the heart of what was once segregation country.
>the Baptists knocking on your door to try and save you weekly
Some religious persons knock on my door for that reason about three or four times a year. (Persons who get approached weekly must be in special need of saving. :-) I just say that I'm not interested in having such a discussion. If they offer me a pamphlet, I usually take it, and say thanks. I'm under no obligation to read it, and usually drop it in the trash can, just as I do with other pamphlets that people give me. Almost always the exchange is pleasant. I'd rather not be bothered, but they believe that they're doing me a good deed by trying to save me, and I bear that in mind when dealing with them. After all, the public media, movies, and the educational establishment -- even in South Carolina -- present values and a world view that's usually opposed to theirs. If others are going to have the right to solicit my support, I see no reason why they shouldn't have that right too. I have many resources on which to base my opinions and am competent enough to accept or reject things according to my own criteria.
>people actually stand in the street waving signs to try and outlaw abortion
I know from the news that there have been protests (would you ban all public expression of the view that fetuses are human beings, and put those who hold it in prison?), but I don't recall ever having seen such a protest myself. I suppose that at times I must have seen somebody with sign about that somewhere, but I haven't seen one recently enough to recall it.
>the promotion of homophobia in America is an obsession
Some persons believe that homosexual acts are morally wrong, but most of them are willing to leave that moral decision to the individuals involved. Only a small number are actively and overtly hostile (often thugs who are hostile to people for a variety of reasons). What's usually promoted is just the opposite of what you said. In the mainstream news media, Hollywood, and the educational establishment, tolerance of homosexuals is emphasized. The block I live on is almost a homosexual enclave, with several "couples" that leave little doubt about their sexual preference. If they're being persecuted, I've seen no sign of it (and, as I said, I'm living in a very conservative region).
I don't doubt that they have had some negative experiences, but we chat sometimes as neighbors do, and I've heard nothing about them (one, by the way, is the child of a prominent public official). Most persons don't support having the state officially recognize homosexual marriage, but that's true of the vast majority of countries in the world. As far as I know just a few treat it about the same as heterosexual marriage (if I'm not mistaken, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and a couple of others). If the UK does too, it's not being included on the lists that I checked.
You present yourself as someone who's opposed to bigotry, but in the light of the outrageous distortions and heavy-handed stereotyping in your own post, I suggest that you consider the possibility that some bigotry may have crept into your own attitudes.
Thank you, Gjones2, for your comments. I appreciate your comments but I would just like to take the time now to emphasize that this forum is for language purposes, so while I think this discussion is interesting, if it is to continue it should be done elsewhere and not muddle up this topic. One problem with antimoon is that they don't have a general forum for just such purposes, so may I suggest langcafe, where many antimooners post anyway? This is the general forum:
If you and/or Kjell N want to carry on this discussion I would advise you either do it there (and I would participate too) or find some other place for it, because as interesting as it may be, it should not interfere with what this forum and thread are about. Thanks :)
<<Just ignore the guy. It's obvious that what he wrote is just bunk, so treat it as such, ignore it, and stick to the topic at hand.>>
If he continues posting on here I will definitely ignore it and await your deleting of it. I'm tired of seeing threads like this get messed up with non-relevant discussions.
Kirk, I don't introduce inflammatory political topics, or come to a language forum for that kind of stuff. As you say, there are plenty of forums set up for political discussion (most of them a waste of time). I limit myself to responding to the inflammatory posts of others, After I've responded -- and in my opinion refuted what was said -- I don't believe that what I took the trouble to write -- in defense, not offense -- should be deleted, especially if the other comment stood for a good while before I responded.
In some cases I suppose that deleting the entire political thread (including partly language-relevant posts -- it's easy to produce hybrids) is justified. In many cases, though, I think the best punishment for persons who introduce inflammatory topics is to let the other side respond and then cut off political debate from that point forward. They had the first word. Let the other side have the last one. If they get pounded in the response, good. That will discourage them (whichever side they are on) from bringing in inflammatory non-language matters. I do believe, though, in the saying "Give a dog a bad name, and you can shoot it." That's why I'm sensitive to hostile remarks that I believe badly misrepresent the United States.
As you suggest, I'll get back to the language topic (which is semi-political too) in the next post, by responding to something you wrote earlier. First let me apologize for the length of my posts. As a famous writer once said -- French, I believe -- "Please excuse the length of my letter. I didn't have time to be brief." [Or something to that effect -- that's not a direct quotation.] It's very difficult to be brief and still cover things adequately, especially if you want to prove them rather than rely on bare assertion. Usually doing so requires either great skill or a lot of time spent in revision. I rarely succeed.
Gjones2, I know you don't introduce inflammatory political topics, and I was actually glad to see your response :) I was just suggesting that any further comment on the topic not be made here. I agree with you that sometimes people who have the first word in inflammatory non-language comments sometimes just need to have the other side make the last word and then it ends there. Also, no need to apologize for your posts--I don't think they're unncessarily lengthy. I sometimes also write lengthier posts, too, but, like you said, that's just because there's so much information I wanna get out there in what I'm saying :)
Thanks. I confess that I'm guilty of overkill sometimes, though, and just plain wordiness.
Here's the language post. It's about the national language topic, and as some persons posting from Europe have shown, that can be a hot political topic too. I've tried to keep the controversial parts as non-inflammatory as I could.
>If we were looking at an atlas from 100-125 years ago we might find it'd say the US's languages were English and German.... [Kirk]
I'd be curious to know just how prevalent German was. I realize that the government didn't keep track of these things as well back then, but is there any good information about it? In South Carolina there were a few German settlements in the colonial period. Signs of them remain in some place names and in the family names of a good many persons. The Germans were greatly outnumbered, though, and their language and culture practically disappeared (if I'm not mistaken, in the early 19th century). I suppose that in colonial Pennsylvania and later in the midwest the numbers were larger.
My own view is that the situation with Spanish speakers is somewhat different in several significant ways. Large areas of the country were once governed by Spain itself, and many persons there still speak Spanish (or, more typically, Spanglish). Once I mentioned to a Mexican-American friend from New Mexico -- not a recent immigrant -- how fortunate he was to have grown up using two languages. He said, "Yeah, but I f**k up both of them." That was true too. I spoke standard Spanish better than he did, and though he was fluent in both English and Spanish, he'd never mastered either language in its academic form (or attained even average competence). Of course, this was a considerable disadvantage when it came to getting some kinds of jobs. I lost contact with him later (he didn't like to write letters), but as far as I know, he never had anything but blue-collar jobs.
If I'm not mistaken, both historically and currently Spanish speakers have been less likely to learn other languages -- or, at least, master the accepted academic dialects -- than Germans were and especially some of the peoples from Scandinavia or some of the small European countries that are surrounded by speakers of other languages. Rather than going by the saying , "When in Rome do as the Romans do" many of them tend to see their connection with their historical Spanish roots in this country as a justification for not adapting to the larger national culture. In another discussion a Mexican (in Mexico, I assume) just asked the question, "...who are the real illegals in Alta California? The mexicans or the gringos?" [I won't include my political opinions about that here.]
Also there's far less pressure on current Spanish-speaking immigrants to assimilate than there was for Germans in the past. Multiculturalism is stressed now. There's a law that requires that ballots be printed in languages other than English once the percentage of persons who speak that language reaches a certain point. Spanish-speakers are an important political force, especially in some states. Government and private-sector preferences for persons who identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino give encouragement for them to preserve their separate identity. Were there ever state-instituted preferences for Germans in the United States? If there were, I doubt that it was on the same scale.
I believe that there are reasons not to dismiss lightly the possibility that the United States will lose the advantages of having a common language. Once a large part of the population closely identifies itself with another language, it will be too late to try to preserve English as the common language (even unofficially). It may well be too late for that already. While I myself am interested in foreign languages, and would encourage immigrants to try to maintain their knowledge of their native languages -- along with English -- there are definite disadvantages to having a country in which large parts of the population can't be addressed by using a common language. Even if things don't deteriorate into violent confrontations, separatism, and civil war, there are other problems.
Take this forum, for instance, one in which most of the persons seem to have a special interest in languages and who typically understand many of them. Even introducing a few posts in a language besides English immediately causes divisions. Some persons don't understand the posts. They are left out of the discussion unless somebody takes the trouble to provide translations. (For some of the more commonly spoken languages, automatic translators may convey the gist of what was said.) Doing so takes up space and time. Having knowledge of more than one language is a great resource, but not being able to communicate in a common one is a obstacle. In my opinion many linguists -- because of their fondness for other languages themselves and talent in that area -- tend to underestimate it.
>if it were you and only you, you couldn't stand a chance against me, I gave service in the army....if your yard here next to mine, I will make sure that you wish never encounter a mexican again in your whole life. [Sigma]
I'm tempted to say that I'm already wishing that I never encounter another Mexican. :-) That wouldn't be true, though. I like some Mexicans. My best friend at one time in my life was a Mexican-American. Later my best female friend was a Mexican-American too. Also I enjoyed the time that I spent in Mexico itself, and except for a few jerks I liked nearly everybody I knew.
I see the hostility in your remarks, but -- and this will probably increase your anger -- have to admit that I enjoyed them. Outbursts of machismo on the internet are almost always amusing. Would I stand a chance against you? Golly, I don't know.
Maybe. I was in the army too, and I'm 6'4". I don't claim to be an expert fighter, but I know a few tricks and used to practice karate with some friends of mine (they were the experts, not me -- because of my reach I was just a somewhat challenging target). You're decades younger than I am, and I'm not as quick as I used to be. I lift weights, run, and ride a bike regularly, though. I'm in good shape (despite my TV watching and beer drinking). Unless you're an expert fighter or extremely strong, I rather doubt that you could handle me. Even if you can, so what? That wouldn’t take away the inaccuracies or logical fallacies in your posts. My comment about the yard was just a joke. (I actually made fun of my own arguments in it.) Lighten up.
Oh no! That machismo post to Sigma belonged in another discussion. I didn't mean to post it here. If there's a moderator around, please delete it as soon as possible. In any case responses should go in the other discussion, not this one.
<<I'd be curious to know just how prevalent German was. I realize that the government didn't keep track of these things as well back then, but is there any good information about it? In South Carolina there were a few German settlements in the colonial period. Signs of them remain in some place names and in the family names of a good many persons. The Germans were greatly outnumbered, though, and their language and culture practically disappeared (if I'm not mistaken, in the early 19th century). I suppose that in colonial Pennsylvania and later in the midwest the numbers were larger.>>
I would be interested in knowing the stats on that as well. I would guess it was at one point in the several millions nationwide of native speakers as well as bilingual second-generation speakers.
<<My own view is that the situation with Spanish speakers is somewhat different in several significant ways. Large areas of the country were once governed by Spain itself, and many persons there still speak Spanish (or, more typically, Spanglish).>>
That's an interesting period in history. Last year I actually took two classes ("History of San Diego" and "History of Los Angeles") which dealt heavily with that, at least at related to California. While these were indeed great swaths of land that were once "inhabited" by Spain, they were very sparsely populated, even considering native populations, whose allegiance to Spain, and later, Mexico, was quite dubious (yours would be too if the rulers of "your" country routinely committed shameful atrocities, considered you to be subhuman and provided no real incentive for you to identifiy with the larger state).
In 1800, the non-Indian population of California was 1,800 people. From what I learned I believe it was no higher than 4,000 by the time California became a US state in 1848. There were some natives that had survived to that point but few were Spanish speakers, and I doubt there was ever a significant amount of native Spanish speaking Indians by that point. Also, these 4,000 Californios, as the non-Indian Mexicans were known, either intermarried with Anglo Americans (or had already done so as there had been a pre-'48 Anglo presence) or moved down to Mexico in the years following the war ending in 1848. Interestingly, these Californios did not have a particularly strong allegiance to Mexico to begin with, principally because they were few and very far from Mexico City (think how far it is now and imagine how far it was without cars and planes) and were irritated at the lack of attention they received from Mexico's capital, as Mexico followed a highly centralized federalistic route in its early years. Historical sources show some Californios welcomed and even supported the US in the US-Mexican war, something I was surprised to learn.
Another thing to remember--California was only Mexican from 1820-1848. Before 1820 it was still under the Spanish crown (all 1,800 Californios and whatever they considered the natives to be). I would assume many of the things relevant to California at this time were also relevant to places that would become Arizona and New Mexico, except I wouldn't be surprised if they had even fewer non-Indians there (and thus, non-Spanish speakers at that point). So, it may be tempting to construct a strong Spanish-speaking history for this region but the truth is it was quite negligible even then, much less today.
<<If I'm not mistaken, both historically and currently Spanish speakers have been less likely to learn other languages -- or, at least, master the accepted academic dialects -- than Germans were and especially some of the peoples from Scandinavia or some of the small European countries that are surrounded by speakers of other languages. Rather than going by the saying , "When in Rome do as the Romans do" many of them tend to see their connection with their historical Spanish roots in this country as a justification for not adapting to the larger national culture.Also there's far less pressure on current Spanish-speaking immigrants to assimilate than there was for Germans in the past. Multiculturalism is stressed now. There's a law that requires that ballots be printed in languages other than English once the percentage of persons who speak that language reaches a certain point. Spanish-speakers are an important political force, especially in some states. Government and private-sector preferences for persons who identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino give encouragement for them to preserve their separate identity. Were there ever state-instituted preferences for Germans in the United States? If there were, I doubt that it was on the same scale.>>
Well, historically it hasn't been comparatively long that we've had so many Spanish speakers in this country so it's hard to gauge but I know what you're saying. However, even with the emphasis on multiculturalism (whether official or noninstitutional) and the like the trend is that Spanish knowledge decreases as the generations go up. I've seen this in numbers and in personal experience. As I stated before, my hometown is 30% Hispanic, mostly Mexican or of Mexican descent, so there are plenty of native Spanish speakers. I've told this story before, so if anyone's heard it and is bored, you can skip this part. In my personal experience, such as with my Mexican-American friends I had thru school and particularly in high school, many of them were the first generation to either be born or to have spent most of their lives in the US. These people, my generation, often speak Spanish natively as they grew up speaking it. However, they're also unquestionably native speakers of English and in many cases, English dominant, something which surprised me once I realized it.
My personal experience in this that really sums it up is this: my senior year in high school (2001-2002) I took AP Spanish Literature and of the 30 students I was the only non-Hispanic and one of two nonnative speakers of Spanish (actually 3 if you include my teacher, who is 100% Mexican American, but who was actually not a native Spanish speaker herself but had learned it in school--she sounds like any regular gringa who learned Spanish in high school and college). Everyone was quite comptent in Spanish and we could read and discuess the intricacies of Borges, Unamuno, Matute, Garica Lorca (all examples of authors we read) yet, when we weren't actually talking about literature, the language of the class was usually English. These were kids who were great at Spanish (native in it!) but, as it turns out, whose English was more dominant--it was the language they chose to speak amongst themselves for most of the time, even tho every single person in that class understood Spanish perfectly. Outside of class, where they weren't supposed to be speaking Spanish as in the classroom, they overwhelmingly spoke English.
Now, the interesting part is that these kids were not completely assimilated or integrated or whatever you wanna say. Most (tho not all) lived in parts of town with a heavy Spanish-speaking populace and most of them hung out mostly with other Mexican-Americans and wore the clothes and styles identified with that group. Surely most of them spoke Spanish at home with family and relatives. However, despite what it looks like on paper they all preferred English, tho no one was making them speak either one. While my town has a lot of Spanish speakers and you can get certainly around without knowing English if necessary, the true fact is that English is still the dominant regional and national language and that's what's most useful for people in the end in the context of the US.
I also took a sociolinguistics class on this whole phenomenon, and we talked about bilingualism a lot, and researchers have found that rather predictably, the incidence rate of Spanish speaking skills goes down greatly with each successive generation. Thinking of my friends who are 3rd generation Mexican-Americans (and I know quite a few here), none of them knows Spanish natively, altho most of them study or did study it in school like everyone else here. Mostly it comes down to this--if your parents were born in the US, the chances you speak fluent Spanish diminish greatly, even if they are bilingual. My Spanish teacher I referred to earlier happened to be 2nd generation Mexican-American. Look at Los Angeles mayor Villaraigosa. He's Mexican-American (3rd generation I believe) but is not a native Spanish speaker and I unhesitatingly say my Spanish is much better than his (not because I'm being arrogant, but his Spanish just is elementary--intermediate at best...he fumbles thru sentences and has awkward pronunciations and grammar, such as you would expect from any nonnative speaker who hasn't studied it sufficiently). Yes, he reached out to Latinos in order to win the position as LA mayor but it certainly wasn't because of his Spanish-language appeal :)
<<I believe that there are reasons not to dismiss lightly the possibility that the United States will lose the advantages of having a common language. Once a large part of the population closely identifies itself with another language, it will be too late to try to preserve English as the common language (even unofficially). It may well be too late for that already. While I myself am interested in foreign languages, and would encourage immigrants to try to maintain their knowledge of their native languages -- along with English -- there are definite disadvantages to having a country in which large parts of the population can't be addressed by using a common language. Even if things don't deteriorate into violent confrontations, separatism, and civil war, there are other problems.
Take this forum, for instance, one in which most of the persons seem to have a special interest in languages and who typically understand many of them. Even introducing a few posts in a language besides English immediately causes divisions. Some persons don't understand the posts. They are left out of the discussion unless somebody takes the trouble to provide translations. (For some of the more commonly spoken languages, automatic translators may convey the gist of what was said.) Doing so takes up space and time. Having knowledge of more than one language is a great resource, but not being able to communicate in a common one is a obstacle. In my opinion many linguists -- because of their fondness for other languages themselves and talent in that area -- tend to underestimate it.>>
Well, based on the numbers, research, and my experience, I have very few worries about what will happen to English and the picture is generally clear for me what is happening to Spanish, and that is that it will be on the decline as successive generations go up. What keeps it going is a constant influx of Spanish-speaking individuals to the US. As I said before, I'm just describing what happens, not what I think would happen in an ideal world (in an ideal world I would also speak the Swedish of my great-grandarents who were from Sweden).
Probably the clincher in all this for me, in addition to all these other things I had learned or experienced myself, was reading some research that had shown that despite massive booms in immigration (from all over the world) in recent decades to the US, there are percentagewise fewer people who speak no English than during another huge boom--that of the later part of the 1800s and earlier 1900s. People tend to equate Spanish speakers in the US as exclusively Spanish speaking when in fact that's not the case. Even many recent immigrants eventually attain some level of English competency or become fluent. I've seen it happen over and over. Immigrants may not be native speakers but if you can communicate and understand English fine you do qualify as an English speaker. So, basically for me, it's not a linguistics-inspired thing to overlook or underestimate the situation in the US, but it's in fact my linguistics background (also influenced by the history classes I took) coupled with my own personal real life and anecdotal experience that has convinced me that Spanish is still not that great of an exception in the overall scheme of things in US language history. I think it's the other way around. Many people tend to take these things out of perspective and don't bother to consult historical context or linguistic facts before coming to the conclusion that English is somehow being threatened when it's clearly the opposite that's happening. And that was just talking about Spanish speakers. I don't need to go on now about other groups such as my Asian friends (about half of everyone I know or possibly more is Asian--I go to a college whose largest ethnic group is Asian-Americans, near 50%, and also have Asian-American relatives) but you can probably take a guess at what the situation is there, too.
Anyway, thanks for your comments, Gjones2. I really do appreciate them. How's that for wordy? ;)
Thanks. Excellent post -- good and long (so long that I don't feel so guilty anymore about my long posts :-).
I'm tired out from all my writing in a several discussions, here and elsewhere, so I don't know if I'll have much mental energy left for this one. Also I either agree or find little to criticize in most of what you've said. So there's not much that really needs saying.
I'm still far from being ready, though, to draw the conclusion that there's no cause for concern. In pointing out what I thought was a significant difference between the Spanish and German situations, I said, "Large areas of the country were once governed by Spain itself, and many persons there still speak Spanish (or, more typically, Spanglish)...." You rightly pointed out how short was the period that Mexico controlled the American southwest, and how sparsely populated the area was with Spanish speakers then and during the Spanish colonial period. I myself mentioned that recently in another discussion, and I should have made it clear here that I wasn't implying that the connection between most modern Mexican-Americans and the original Spanish or Mexican settlers was very close. Even though a sparse population can geometrically, as I understand it most of the ancestry of modern Mexican-Americans is from immigrants who came here after the area was part of the United States.
Still, that doesn't change the perception among Mexicans themselves, and political movements are based on perception and not reality (on both the right and left -- some of the ideas about race and social utopias didn't square very well with the facts either, but that didn't stop them from producing mass movements and having repercussions around the world). Whether sympathetic towards the United States or not, many Mexican immigrants don't see the United States the way most European or Asian immigrants do. It would be rather difficult for German immigrants, for instance, to form an ideological basis for treating other Americans as interlopers, but this happens in the southwest with Spanish speakers. I gave the example of the Mexican comment, "...who are the real illegals in Alta California? The mexicans or the gringos?".
Since then the same person has cited the example of Texas, in which unassimilated English-speaking settlers (though originally invited by the Spanish-speakers) failed to form a sense of identity with other "Mexicans", and soon rebelled against the central government and won their independence. The Mexican settlers also often had grievances, and some supported the revolution, but it was really the influx of unassimilated English-speaking immigrants that provided the impetus for separatism.
This is a point that I myself often make. It seems much more significant, though, when it's coming from a Mexican (though I don't agree with him much, he’s an educated Mexican who speaks English and who lived at least for a while in the United States). He's not just pointing out a possible parallel. He's seriously advocating that Mexican immigrants move into the southwest in great numbers, preserve their Mexican identity, take control of the area, and then join it again with Mexico. It wouldn't be as easy as he seems to envision it (not with a very large population of non-Mexican-Americans there -- and I seem to recall that the last time the South tried something like that, things didn't go too well :-). Whatever the outcome, though, I don't believe that we can rule out the possibility of serious trouble. The example provided by the Texans themselves (and in California by the Bear Flag Republic) is there for everybody to see.
As for the details of just how well Spanish speakers are assimilating in the southwest, you have more experience of that than I do. I lived in Colorado for just a short time, and knew Mexican-Americans mostly in the Army, along with a few individuals here in South Carolina where they used to be extremely rare (now the lower classes at least are showing up a good bit as restaurant and construction workers). I'm about a generation older than you, and I was in Miami when large numbers of Cuban refugees started arriving. I was just starting to learn Spanish and enjoyed the opportunity of practicing it, especially in the baseball and football games at the local park. If all the Cubans were on the same football team, often they wouldn't bother to go back to the huddle but just say the play out loud. After a while, though, they started to notice that I was making a great many interceptions. :-) Then they had to use a huddle when I was around, or else make sure I ended up on their team. I left Miami soon afterwards, though, so I never really got to see how well the Cubans assimilated.
I was interested in hearing about your high school experiences. I was in an advanced placement class too, and we also read real Spanish literature in the third and fourth year. My teacher mimeographed a lot of short stuff, especially poetry, and we either borrowed books of his for individual reading or bought paperbacks for all of us to read (this was tough on me because I didn't have much money). We covered a good bit of Spanish and Spanish-American literature, though not in the systematic way that I did later in college. We started with a little of the Cid, then Jorge Manrique, on the verge of the Renaissance, I suppose, but expressing the medieval view. The Coplas are very clear in my mind from the first time that I read them -- especially the lines about the rivers and the ubi sunt theme. I mean that I recall reading them and the impression that they made on me. I'm not quoting them from memory (here are the river lines):
Nuestras vidas son los ríos
que van a dar en la mar,
que es el morir;
allí van los señoríos
derechos a se acabar
allí los ríos caudales,
allí los otros medianos
y más chicos,
y llegados, son iguales
los que viven por sus manos
y los ricos.
Our lives are rivers
That run into the sea
Which is death;
There the mighty ones
Find their end
And are consumed;
There too flow
The tributaries and little streams
And having arrived
All are equal,
Those that live by their hands
And the rich.
We read all kinds of stuff (Lorca in a play as well as poetry). The content of the literature was good, but we really weren't well prepared enough to handle the vocabulary and syntax. I remember spending most of my time looking up words in a dictionary. We didn't read Borges. I'd been reading a lot of philosophy on my own since junior high, and also all kinds of exotic and far-fetched travel and historical stuff, so I could probably have appreciated him in high school. Unless his stories are picked very carefully, though, I wouldn't expect most high school students to get much out of him. Come to think of it, maybe I'm wrong. Borges writes imaginative intellectual puzzles. They may be more appropriate for teenagers than writers who produce what appears to be ordinary realism, the quality of which may not be appreciated if the reader hasn't lived enough to see what's significant in it. So maybe Borges would be a good choice for teenagers -- provided they are intellectuals.
I didn't read Matute or Unamuno until college. I recall that I enjoyed a play by Casona in high school, but all I remember is that I liked it. Later I read many works by Unamuno both in class and on my own. I have several volumes of his Spanish essays, and the Tragic Sense of Life. I often don't agree with him, but he stimulates thought (oddly enough he's a good bit like Nietzsche in some ways -- he exaggerates, confronts the reader, and infuses a good bit of emotion into intellectual topics). That reminds me. I believe we did read something short in high school by another Spanish philosopher, Ortega y Gasset. I suppose high school students would be more likely to read Unamuno's fiction or poetry. His fiction is considered innovative, but it never appealed to me as much as the essays. I even liked the newspaper stuff that he wrote for a newspaper in Argentina, apparently almost random thoughts about whatever topic came to mind. If I recall correctly, he was famed as a talker as well as a writer and frequented one of those "tertulias" that writers and other Spanish intellectuals used to have. In his casual newspaper stuff he probably just recyled some of the thoughts that occurred to him there.
Well, I see that I'm rambling, and may not be making any sense. I haven't been to sleep since the night before last, and I'd better take a nap.
Thanks for reading and putting up with my super-long post, Gjones2 :)
<<Still, that doesn't change the perception among Mexicans themselves, and political movements are based on perception and not reality (on both the right and left -- some of the ideas about race and social utopias didn't square very well with the facts either, but that didn't stop them from producing mass movements and having repercussions around the world). Whether sympathetic towards the United States or not, many Mexican immigrants don't see the United States the way most European or Asian immigrants do. It would be rather difficult for German immigrants, for instance, to form an ideological basis for treating other Americans as interlopers, but this happens in the southwest with Spanish speakers. I gave the example of the Mexican comment, "...who are the real illegals in Alta California? The mexicans or the gringos?".>>
In my experience with Mexican-Americans that's true there is some sentiment amongst some people that this was inhabited by many Spanish-speaking peoples in the past, but with the vast majority of Mexican-Americans I've known that hasn't been the case. Sure, they're proud to be able to speak Spanish (as they well should be) but for many there are few political motives or undertones behind it. The masses move here because they're searching for a better life--better jobs, education, etc., and many do end up speaking English, and certainly their children do.
However, the process may be sped up depending on the individual family's experience, of course. We have some family friends and the parents are now in their late 50s early 60s and when they moved here when they were quite young their status was illegal and they didn't speak a word of English. However, after much work and saving (they eventually started their own landscaping company which is quite successful now) they decided to move out to the burgeoning middle-class suburbs in the Inland Empire east of LA and raise their kids there. Their two daughters, who are now in their late 20s, were not raised in a predominant Spanish-speaking environment altho they spoke Spanish and English at home (by the way their parents are completely fluent in English now), and as such the process of integration was probably somewhat sped up in their case. I've known several families like this, as well as families who've stayed in the more traditional Mexican districts. However, the kids usually end up moving out and buying homes elsewhere, while still retaining ties to the old community for that "in-between" generation. Hispanics form about a third of California's populace, yet they're buying homes disproprtionately. I found a statistic for January-June 2002 home sales in California, and top 10 last names of homebuyers were:
The amount of homebuying going on by Hispanics is disproportionate to the population, and they're often outside of the nontraditional cultural centers where new immgrant Hispanics cluster. You'll notice 6 Hispanic surnames, 2 Asian, and 2 European.
Regardless of how they feel about speaking Spanish (and thankfully we're mostly past the ages when people felt like they shouldn't speak the "old-country" language with their kids), the simple matter is that as the generations go up, so does the rate of English speaking and the corresponding decline of fluency in Spanish, even if the community isn't necessarily "assimilated" or "integrated." Also, back to the German thing, many German-Americans were proud to speak German and in fact German did stick around for quite awhile as a predominant language in certain areas, remaining in specific pockets well into the second half of the 20th century. However, even the most isolated (and isolationalistic) of sizable German towns by this point have become almost exclusively English speaking by this point, and many of these communities weren't exactly eager for such a thing to happen in the first place. This is another reason I see a parallel with Spanish today. Even with the pockets of Spanish speakers we have here those are only being sustained by continued influx of new arrivals who speak Spanish. If for whatever weird reason the influx just stopped one day or eventually petered off as happened with German immigrants, and no new Spanish speakers were being introduced, I would predict Spanish would remain prevalent as a native language in these areas for the next couple decades, and then passive understanding would remain strong for perhaps longer, maybe another couple to few decades, but that by the passing of perhaps 60-70 years there'd be few true native (to the point of absolute competency) speakers of Spanish left, and by 100 years there'd be very few even passive Spanish knowledge at all, except for knowledge learned in school as everyone else learns Spanish. These figures may seem brash or rushed, but whatever the timeline is, I see it happening regardless, because I've already seen that exact pattern over and over in my personal experience. I'm not jumping to predict a precocious decline of Spanish overall yet, as that's not the reality. Yet, the pattern is established.
Once again, I will say for any new readers that this has nothing to do with my opinions on the topic, simply describing what does happen naturally, with or without governmental pressure or encouragement or whatever, it's simply how these things tend to work. Also, this is not unique to the US. Very similar things happened in Argentina. Argentina experienced a huge influx of immigration in the late 1800s-1900s, proportionally larger in scale than that which the US has seen, in that a country in basically a few decades became one of predominantly Spanish heritage (and 1% natives) to one whose largest ethnic group was Italians. There were similar worries in Argentina that Italian was taking over, as when over half your country, a majority, is now speaking another language, you're probably gonna start worrying about your own. However, almost no one natively speaks Italian in Argentina these days (I lived there last year and never heard Italian on the streets--I was unquestionably surrounded by Spanish even tho many of the people looked like they should be walking around in Rome or Naples), even tho it remains that just a little over half the country is of Italian heritage.
Basically, especially in this truly multicultural age (which is certainly apparent in California which has no ethnic majority...this will be the future of the US. I learned in my class last year that LA's demographics in 1960 are almost eerily spot-on for the US's demographic statistics in 2000 in terms of ethnic percentages) no one is forcing Spanish speakers to learn English, but it is the dominant cultural language here, and it just naturally happens to be picked up as the generations go on, with the largest jump occurring with generations born here. As I mentioned before, all of my friends and acquaitances who are 3rd-gen Mexican Americans are either not native speakers of Spanish at all or only have a passive understanding.
Another important thing to consider. California, which is 32-35% Hispanic, has Hispanics from all over, and not just Mexico. While Mexicans are the largest group, ignoring the people coming from other areas is clearly missing out on a sizable portion of the immigration picture. The many Salvadorans who've settled in LA are obviously mostly Spanish-speaking yet their connection with the land of California is not necessarily the same as Mexicans' views on it. The same could also probably be said of Cubans and Puerto Ricans, and any other sizable groups of Hispanics in various parts of the US.
So, anyway, did you study Spanish lit in college? I have to confess I don't really like literature that much, but I do like reading--just nonfiction. Consequently I thought my AP Spanish Lit class was a bore except for the random words I learned. However, they were mostly literary and not useful in conversational Spanish. I would minor in Spanish or something if it weren't for the fact I'd have to take a bunch of literature classes, which is not going to happen. However, I am excited for my linguistics class "Structure of Spanish" class I'm taking this fall. Give me thick books on Spanish morphology, prosody, phonetics/phonology, historical linguistics, and the like and I'll read happily for days :)
I think the biggest difference between the German-speaking immigrants of yore and the Spanish-speaking immigrants today is one of proximity. The US doesn't border any German-speaking countries, nor does it have any Germanic territories.
So while I agree that most first generation hispanic immigrants tend to feel more comfortable with English (to such a degree that, in New York at least, a sizeable percentage doesn't even speak Spanish), the United States' close proximity to Latin America, combined with the bad economic conditions in many parts of that region, mean that Spanish will remain a strong presence in this country for at least the rest of my lifetime.