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I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone say, “I hate it when I am in the grocery store and I hear a group of people speaking Spanish, and I don’t know what they’re saying. I always think they’re talking about me.”

If, like I do, you speak Spanish, you may find this a little ridiculous. A grocery store Spanish conversation is no different from a typical English one. (“Which brand is need?” “Leave your brother alone!”) But I remember when I did not speak Spanish, and I used to have the same feeling. Why is it that of all the possibilities, we always assume the worst? Do we think that Spanish-speaking people secretly speak English too, and they only speak in Spanish when they don’t want to be overheard?

Put all debate over immigration aside.

Picture yourself in a foreign country (Let’s make it France.) Pretend you live there, and you have not mastered French yet. When you go out with your family, you communicate to them in English. Would you openly talk about people you see, assuming they do not understand you? Or would you be more cautious, knowing you should never assume someone doesn’t understand you? Hopefully the latter. More importantly, would you want to talk about the people around you, even if there is nothing unusual or funny about them, simply for the fact that they would not know the difference?

Maybe you have never been in that situation before. But you can imagine what it is like. Yes, we all wish that newcomers could learn English. Yes, we all want to understand what everyone is saying. But if it really bothers you that much, try to learn a little Spanish. That way, you can rest assured that you are not being talked about. Don’t be disappointed, though. After all, it’s not all about you!

Amanda Chao, Greensboro


Jim Longworth’s column, “America needs FDR’s ‘Second Bill of Rights’” [July 20, 2011] nails it. It is refreshing and inspiring in these dark times of sanctioned corruption (private campaign contributions) and austerity measures (including cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,) to read words of reason and sanity.May that sanity and reason spread much faster than fear and cynicism in America.

Bill Leavy, Winston-Salem