other day, I heard an elderly immigrant to America tell how it was for him and
his wife when they first came to America.
The husband, Nick, came first and found a place for them to live. Then he sent
for his wife, Rosa.
When Rosa arrived in New York, Nick told her he was going to teach her 10 words
of English every day. As Nick went out to work as a janitor, he made it a point
to learn 10 new words so he could teach them to Rosa that night at the supper
Rosa sulked and balked but Nick stuck by his guns and she learned the 10 words
of the day before they went to sleep that night.
You can guess how the story ended. Rosa's functional vocabulary grew by a minimum
of 10 words a day. Soon, she was able to go shopping for meat and groceries, placing
her order in heavily accented English but she was understandable.
Joey Vento's story from South Philly
Vento, owner of Geno's, a south Philadelphia cheesesteak shop, died of a heart
attack on Tuesday. Besides being the owner of one of the city's most well-known
steak sandwich shops, Vento caught national attention in 2006 for a sign he placed
in his restaurant urging customers to speak English.
If you would go into a small town restaurant in Spain or Germany, would you expect
the owners to understand your order in English? Or would you make an effort to
learn a few words of the local language?"
One customer said, "I live in Philly. This guy was a good man. He donated tons
of cash to kids groups, most of them minorities . He loved America and Philly
and hated to see what is becoming of it. His family were immigrants and assimilated
to the country and had success and they came from pure poverty. He wanted to instill
in all kids that the only way to get ahead is to do hard work, whether it be a
job, art or school. Think about it. Which immigrant will have a better advantage:
one who refuses to learn English or one who learns it?"
Another customer said, "You need to learn to speak English to become a citizen
of the USA. If you don't like that you can get out."
HMA said, "I am Hispanic and I have to say that people that come to this country
should learn to speak the language. I came here when I was 15 and I tried very
hard to learn the English language quickly. I made sure I made friends with American
kids and not just Hispanic kids. Forward 30 years and I speak actually 3 languages
fluently: French, English and Spanish. I see many
folks that come to this country and they just mingle with their kind and that
slows down the learning process. I've known people that are here for years
and still cannot speak English which is sad but it is because they do not associate
themselves with English speaking folks."
Another said, "How was this guy racist? Is it really unreasonable to expect people
to communicate in the local language?"
A sad customer said,
in peace, Mr. Vento. You were a great American.
make it a point to eat at Geno's ... every time I go to Philly."