My Latin American parents have always told me throughout my childhood “entre gustos, siempre hay disgustos” or “with likes, people always have dislikes.” Looking back at my personal experiences, I have seen how despite the fact that many more people are educated now more than ever in history, we continue to stereotype different cultures of other people. When noting this, I have realized that you can only understand a culture if you understand its language. This I believe.
I first learned this in the most unexpected place, my elective expositotry writing class. My friends and I were speaking Spanish to each other when all of a sudden, my teacher asked us what we were talking about and simply stated afterwards “you can only understand a culture if you understand its language.”
Immediately after she noted this, I realized how relevant this idea was. I thought of all the times I have seen Spanish speaking immigrants attempting to fit in to American life in Downtown Miami. It always bothers me to travel their and see how most of the homeless in that region are Latin American Immigrants who do not understand English. I also recalled the time I was strolling through Paris with my family and felt swept away in a French ocean. I don’t speak French.
Most importantly, I grasped how this occurs around me so often. I overheard a group of English-speaking kids walk by me at a mall arguing how Japanese people are only good at making electronics. The news I’ve been watching has been portraying Iraq as a land covered in radical people who do not want peace. I even remember hearing my English friends talking about dressing up as dirty immigrants for a “fiesta” themed homecoming day. Even my own friends were engaging in this abhorrent act!
As I sat one night getting my daily dose of homework done, I began to entangle myself in these thoughts. Isn’t it true that most people who speak the same language rarely insult each other’s cultures? I have never recalled any Spanish speaking kids at my school making fun of each other, even if they came from different cultures.
I conceived the fact that throughout human existence, people have always had a fear of someone who is not the same as they are. I understood that these poor judgments of others have been occurring since the beginning of time. With this thought in mind though, I imagine a positive future ahead; Latin American immigrants will adjust to American life, I will begin to further comprehend French as well as their culture, and high school kids will learn not to offend others who do not speak their own language. We just need to learn how to understand each other. I wish that everyone knew that “entre gustos, siempre hay disgustos”. I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if we all spoke the same language.
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