A bridge of sound
When I was a kid, I remember I’d stare every once in a while at my parent’s library for novelties. It’s not like they were buying books every week, though. It had to do with my interests as I was growing up. These were mostly textbooks They had to read during college. My Dad’s were mostly accounting books. Finance stuff. Boring shit. My Mom’s were more compelling: history, geography and a bit of literature. Then there were the leather bound collections: from enciclopedias to, oh my god, THE BIBLE. The thickest book I’d ever seen in my entire life. With its golden edges and scarce but glossy beautiful pages of people rolling their eyes at something. I’d sift through that book not looking for wisdom or righteousness, but for contemplating the details or renaactments of Daniel with the lions or Samson pushing some wheel after shaving his head. (How could you, man?)
But amongst all that burgundy-to-black pallet of colours, there was a box that stood out. From distance you could tell the basic colours. The box contained three pull out cases, each of them had a videotape, a book and a cassette. It was the “No problem” collection, a self guided course on how to learn english. Three levels.
I never watched it or read those. And I suspect my parents didn’t either.
How could they? By 1992 my little sister Alma was born. Now We were five. My dad had to work in the mornings and study in the afternoons. My mom had to do almost the same. At the end of the day there was no bandwith in them to learn another language. So their english got stuck at shopping level for many years.
When my parents came to visit me last year we went to a family dinner. It was New Year’s Eve. Everyone was at my cousin’s house. Her husband had made carnitas, a mexican dish which I won’t describe because I’ll get an instant craving. The place was packed with relatives.
The morning after, my Dad told me that He had tried to speak in english to some of his nephews, which I consider native english speakers, but They were talking back to him in spanish. Maybe to brush him off quickly. Maybe to make the interaction between an almost 60 year old and a teenager a little less awkward. But my old man was kinda dissapointed. He jokingly confided that to me, but I knew that he wanted to practice his english. He’s now retired, He doesn’t have to look after any of us. He wants to go beyond shopping level. He doesn’t want to buy, he wants to understand.
So I took it upon myself that, for the rest of his stay in the US, I would have some moments of conversation in English with him. And we did. He would beam every time he got his point across in english. It felt as years ago, When he was trying to teach me how to play the guitar. He was really good and wanted to pursue a career as a musician before becoming an accountant.
But how could He? He grew up in a poor family and his safe bet to get out of poverty was through the traditional methods.
I thought of him a lot during the weeks prior to the release of America the Bilingual. I told Steve, my host and Executive Producer, about my Dad. They’re both Recovering Monolinguals, they’re retired, they’re the same age. They could be friends. They could be on the side of the field (soccer, basketball, football, you name it), holding their beers, watching their sons play. Talking about golden years. Disagreeing on music, agreeing on the best dichos. Listening to each other.
Let’s zoom out and think of all the friendship possibilities, humane posibilities that speaking in another language provides. It’s not the recipe for world peace, of course. But it’s definitely one of the ingredients towards understanding one another.
And with this bridge of sound called America the Bilingual, We’re going to do our part.
We hope you enjoy it.
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