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Mr. Acosta, Can You Hear Me Now?

 

There is one thing the ctrl-left and the alt-right agree on: it is impossible to change cultures. If you're born into a culture, all your genetic predispositions make it impossible to change your eating habits and your language, much less your manners, your planning, and your ability to think as a member of this new culture.

But the hardest of all is language, which is virtually impossible to change, which is why we pay for bilingual education for children of Latin immigrants born in the U.S. and sometimes third generation in the U.S.

Because, you see, the best you can achieve in terms of learning a foreign language is the sort of halting, broken speech such as that of children and toddlers. In fact, if your children and grandchildren don't mate with English speakers, your family will never learn to speak the language and will remain an undigested cultural lump in the midst of your adopted culture forever.

This is so much an article of faith on the ctrl-left that I had to monitor my kids like a hawk all through elementary school.  If I got caught up in a book and wasn’t paying attention, my kids got put in bilingual education.  In Spanish.  Since they’re half Portuguese, the “compassionate” teachers thought it would be easier for them to do their homework in a related language.  Note that even if I did teach them some words of Portuguese — since the only time they heard me speaking Portuguese was the weekly conversation with my mom on the phone — neither of them learned the little I tried to teach.  Oh, they can both swear fluently in Portuguese.  They heard that too — their father speaks no Portuguese, and they are utterly immersed in an English-speaking society.  Robert was reading books published for grown-ups when he entered kindergarten; Marshall complained that his teacher patronized him in pre-school.  Yes, in those words.  And yet, while I was finishing Darkship Thieves for its first round of submissions, Robert spent two weeks in Spanish as primary language classes before he got fed up enough to complain to me.

The only thing that finally made the befuddled products of our teacher-training system stop inflicting Spanish on my children was my mock serious explanation that they were offending my culture, due to how often the Portuguese and Spanish were at war throughout history.  And I barely managed not to burst out laughing until I was outside the school.

The alt-right is similarly so convinced of the genetic markers for language and culture (a part of me wants to go downstairs and tell that to the biologist in the basement, because his whoops of laughter should be audible all through the country) that one particular blogger often sends his minions over to fasten onto every typo and slip of the fingers in the blogs I write first thing in the morning and wholly uncaffeinated and see in them “proof” that I’m thinking in Portuguese.