My son and I got into a taxi in Louisville, Kentucky a few nights ago. We were going to the theatre during a downpour and didn’t want to arrive drenched. When the taxi driver pulled up he couldn’t understand a word I was saying. I tried to explain that we were just going a few blocks away. I pointed, talked slowly and even tried to help him figure out the GPS attached to his visor. I was sensitive and kind because I know what it’s like to be in a foreign country. The conversation was almost impossible.
Give me a break. He has moved to America, has a driver’s license, works for a taxi company and is trying to drive people around Jefferson County, Kentucky. He did not speak much English!
Finally, I was able to understand that he had moved here from South Africa and this was his second day of working as a taxi driver. I explained to him that I had been to South Africa, loved his country and welcomed him to America. I didn’t say it but I wanted to shout “Learn the English language!”
I am happy for people who come to America. He is trying to work. I wonder how many people need a job but would never consider driving a cab? My hat is off to the people who are coming to America legally and working jobs that average Americans won’t work.
One big problem is that these well meaning new residents need to learn English. I realize this is tough to enforce since many Americans have trouble passing an English class.
The national language for South Africa is English. Unfortunately there are at least ten other official languages and a multitude of unofficial languages. Many people in the country never become fluent in speaking English. They are brought up to learn the language of their tribe and struggle with English throughout their lives. This scenario makes it tough for everyone to be on the same level when it comes to national communication.
I love South Africa, Mexico and a lot of other places but this is still America. Let’s keep the conversation in English.
— Glenn Mollette is an American columnist read in all fifty states. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com. Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette.