Wednesday, February 27, 2013

L.A. Parker: We all need to speak the same language

Almost 15 years ago, a girlfriend and I visited Paris for 10 days.

We stayed in a Princeton artist’s apartment situated in a section known as “Rive Gauche” — or “Left Bank”.

The area had previously welcomed Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jean Paul-Sartre and Henri Matisse, dynamic contributors to arts, literature and philosophy.

Anyway, this American in Paris could hardly speak a word of French while the eventual ex-girlfriend had mastered the language of romance.

My French speaking resembled Pepe Le Pew, while hers sizzled like the radioactivity of Poland-born but Paris-educated Madame Marie Curie.

Franc-ly, I could not buy a baguette without fumbling over myself. She, on the other hand, whisked us without a hitch from café to Montmartre.

In other words, understanding a country’s primary language made for easy transition.

Immigrants, especially from Spanish speaking countries, should understand that by learning English, they can get from here to there, or de aqui para alla, with fewer challenges.

I got all excited about making blueberry pancakes yesterday morning until noticing that there were instructions written in both English and Spanish on the Aunt Jemima box. This is getting worse than Christmas creep.

My welcome mat has been rolled out for all immigrants whether they originate from Poland, Ecuador, Russia, Liberia, Costa Rica, etc.

This is not a request to relinquish their history, customs, food, music, not even their native language but the “King’s English” is essentially, well, king.

Usually, second generations lose touch with their native language but there is encouragement here for every immigrant to remain connected to their country’s language. Never lose touch with those historical components that establish your diversity in these United States.

In less than a year, approximately 11 million predominantly Spanish-speaking immigrants along with a significant number of Europeans will be offered a pathway toward citizenship.

Immigration will change the face of America. But even the influx of millions will not alter our need to speak one common language.

Immigration must lead to assimilation.

Don’t give me that “in time things will change” argument. Current immigration events arrive supremely different than when immigrants landed on Ellis Island.

Technology allows our current immigrant population to listen to radio, television, text, and read newspapers in their home country’s language.

By the way, this might be a good time for American-born citizens to learn English, plus, a second language.

We continue to drown in a vocabulary laced with “dis,” “dat” and “duh.”

If I hear one more person say “axe” instead of “ask”, you may hear a request for their deportation.

Finally, forget all the prompts about hearing or understanding this response in another language.

You don’t get to press “1” for Spanish. Or, “2” for Polish. None of that.

If you need a translation — English 101 awaits.

— L.A. Parker is a Trentonian columnist. Reach him at



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