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Daily Freeman Life Editor Ivan Lajara talks about journalism, living in the Hudson Valley, language, the Web, cats and even politics. But he shouldn't.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

About that Pledge

So everyone is still talking about the Spanish pledge.

The Freeman had an editorial today about that very topic.
A paragraph in it was, to this editor born in a different country, strange:

“Also, high school students, for heaven’s sake, ought to be well on their way to fluency in English, regardless of their origins. ...”

I didn’t speak English when I moved here from Peru and went to Rondout Valley High School.

I started as a junior, and my English was limited to a very accented version of “May I go to the bathroom, please?” (The answer was usually “what?” or “no,” which I actually understood after a couple of days). But I took me a couple of years (and teachers with incredible patience) to make it past “Hamlet” and to get into Advanced Placement English (I received a 98 in the class, but I failed the test — the hardest I’ve ever taken).

Obviously, I did learn the language (superbly, I like to say with pride, given the nature of my job).

So I’ll say this:

For heaven’s sake, maybe some high school students don’t speak English because they just got here.
But yes, I do think learning the language should be a priority.

After all, how are “we” going to “take your jobs” without knowing the language?
By the way, this is how I did the pledge when I didn’t understand the words.

I had it written in three ways: In English (“I pledge allegiance” ...), how I should pronounce it if I was reading it in Spanish (“Ai plech allichans” ...) and translated (“Juro fidelidad” ...).

The reason? You just don’t want to say things you don’t mean.

And for the record, I stood up, every time.
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