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.