Yes, language IS important.

I was cleaning out my email today and came across a conversation I’d saved as a memento of working at the Tribune.

In each Sunday’s lifestyle section, we published a column by a local Spanish instructor and translator that taught readers un poquito de español. The writers tackled sports, foods, even verbs, and answered reader questions. Each column contained “This Week’s Challenge” and “Grammar Stretch” sections.

One day they forwarded a letter they’d received from a reader named Thelma. She wrote:

This is in reference to your article in the Tribune on Sunday, May 22, 2005, Spanish is everywhere in the valley.

This United States of America is a English speaking country. So the Mexican’s, Spanish and any of the other nationalities that come here to live should learn to speak this countries languish not the other way around.

THIS WEEKS CHALLENGE
The people that have moved here from other countries should work on learning to speak English. I can not say that two many times. I know I would feel better if I thought they were trying.

GRAMMAR STRETCH
Grammar stretch should mean (learn to speak English) if you live in the USA.

Sincerely,
[Reader]

So I responded for them:

Dear [Reader],

[The writers] forwarded me your recent message about the Viva Español column, which we publish weekly in the Arts & Life section of the East Valley and Scottsdale Tribune.

As you wrote, America is by and large an English-speaking country, proof of which includes the fact the Tribune is published in English. However, many of our readers have expressed an interest in learning a second language, particularly Spanish. Their reasons vary — maybe their job puts them in contact with the Valley’s large population of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries; maybe they’re planning a trip to Mexico and want to be able to speak the native tongue there. Or maybe they just want to learn a second language! Whatever their motivation, we hope that Viva Español helps them on their road to new knowledge, growth and self-improvement.

There are features that help Spanish speakers learn English, but they appear mostly in newspapers and magazines that are printed in Spanish so the reader can grasp the subtleties and eccentricities of English — “two” vs. “too” vs. “to,” apostrophes and plurals, and everything else that makes the language so hard to master. Such a column wouldn’t make a good fit for the Tribune, since the large majority of our readers and subscribers already speak English as their first language.

But I do appreciate your taking the time to write and let us know your opinions. I hope you enjoy the many other weekly features we publish in the Tribune, even if you think Viva Español is not for you.

Sincerely,
-sam

I don’t miss having to respond to messages like that one. But it still makes me smile that I got to respond to messages the way I did.

WHAT SAM WORE: 1/21/14
shirt012114 pants010613 shoes020111
The shirt: Button-tab sleeved sueded cotton shirt, from the Calvin Klein outlet store at Anthem.
The pants: Dark-wash jeans from Uniqlo, New York.
The shoes: Tumble loafers by J Shoes, from a now-defunct website.
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4 responses to “Yes, language IS important.

  1. Priceless, and I’m sure entirely lost on the Dear Reader.

  2. I TOTALLY REMEMBER THIS. Do you still have that “Perfect Weekend” one?

  3. If only your “This Week’s Challenge” and “Grammar Stretch” could have been to find and correct all the errors in that one short, sad letter…

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