The other day at lunch I ran into a friend at McDonalds’s. As we were waiting in the order line, he said, “I feel like you need to know Spanish just to make an order.” As I looked at the pretty girl at the cash register she looked like she could be Mexican. As we got closer, she sounded just like the two of us and I could detect no accent. She sounded like a plain, old Utahan. Her English was perfect … according to anyone from Utah.
As I have reflected on the statement of my friend, I realize that I have frequented many fast food businesses that hire a lot of Spanish people, some with heavy Spanish accents. This also includes hotel, resorts, restaurants and many other service related businesses. Years ago I read an article about a person who hired a lot of people and he commented that he found his best employees were immigrants. He said they worked much harder and were more loyal than the people born in the United States. So when he was looking to hire, his preference was to find someone wanting to work that came from another country.
A few years ago, a man from Mexico worked for me. He was well educated, loyal, honest, resourceful and a very hard worker. Whenever I gave him a job he did it fast and he did it well. I just pointed him in the right direction and let him go at it. He could do construction work; painting, electrical and you name it. He could do it all. As we worked together I found he could even repair my automobile whenever I had a problem. I found he could do anything and everything I needed done.
One day I asked him how he had learned to do so many things. He told me his father owned an auto repair business and he had learned to repair engines and do body work as he was growing up. Then he went to a University in Mexico City and received a Civil Engineering Degree. I found he could do almost anything I needed done. He was an invaluable employee. It took me about a year to find out who he really was.
The one thing I have not told you is that he spoke hardly any English and I spoke hardly any Spanish. We made a great team. We resorted to the use of sign language, pointing, drawing and things like that to communicate and sometimes an interpreter. I found he could read English if I gave him something written down. He could follow diagrams but he couldn’t speak the language. The very sad thing is that I paid him a menial wage and no one would pay him anymore because he could not speak English.
Eventually he went back to Mexico feeling he could make a better living. What a disservice we, as a country, are doing to these immigrants that come to our country looking for the American Dream. These bright, motivated, industrious people could be valuable assets to us … if only we would require them to learn English so they could be more functional. We have wonderful ESL language courses that are easy to us and cover many different languages for people coming here to find their American Dream.