The School Newspaper of Texas High School

Imperfect English shouldn’t be a reason for prejudice

April 27, 2017

“Can I order the unsweet tea?”

“May you repeat that ma’am? I can’t understand you.”

“Can I please order the…”

A pause falls on her lips. Forming the sentence with proper pronunciation gets stuck without an opportunity for escape. Words roll out of her mouth, but the syllables falter. The only words that come out sudden and unfamiliar. Instead of repeating the request, the lingering fear submits her to turn to her daughter with pleading eyes and repeat her order.

Learning English has been a prominent obstacle for both of my parents, who have experienced the hardships of not speaking English fluently.

My parents learned English when they were looking for an opportunity to better their lives, and the United States was their gateway to that freedom. The hinderance of not speaking the dominant language was a process they had to live with.

English was my father’s third language, so it was difficult for him to comprehend at first, especially transitioning from Vietnamese and French to English. My mother easily picked up Mandarin because of its similarities to her native tongue, Vietnamese.

English isn’t a language they could have learned without a few difficulties.

Although both of my parents have lived in the U.S. for over a decade, there are still a few language barriers, but they’ve since been able to overcome their struggles and aid their journey here in America. Learning English has been difficult, but their jobs required direct communication with others on a day-to-day basis. Their much-needed dedication helped me realize how fortunate I’ve been due to my parents’ sacrifices.

I haven’t experienced someone mocking my parents for their broken English, but I know people silently judge them because it’s human nature. If you can’t speak English well, people tend to question your ability to learn and you are looked down upon as being “uneducated.” It confuses me that some people can’t accept others if they can’t speak a language perfectly.

I used to wonder why my parents weren’t able to learn English easily. Eventually, I realized what a miniscule percentage of people can actually speak English fluently without a single stutter.

When you learn a new language there are always going to be difficulties, and I appreciate my parents’ perseverance for overcoming the hardships of a new language. They’ve earned my respect wholeheartedly. I’m thankful to have examples to learn from in every aspect in my life.

People can’t wrap their heads around the fact that not everyone knows perfect English. I feel like it’s necessary to sympathize with those who have tribulations discerning a language. It’s a matter of people understanding the obstacles of these barriers. The key to anyone succeeding in learning another language is having the knowledge that the inability to speak fluent English won’t hinder your goals.

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