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by Abigail Van Buren

Sharing Common Language Is Simply Common Sense

DEAR ABBY: I agree with your answer to "I Speak Spanish in New Mexico." Why are some people in this country so determined to speak another language in front of other people, knowing that it could be considered rude?

For this country to be united, we need to be able to communicate with each other. A common language makes sense, and I believe that all individuals in this country should use a common language. Individuals, organizations (such as religious organizations) and the government should encourage this. There are problems in this country that are difficult to solve, but this is not one of them.

If I moved to Mexico, I would learn to speak Spanish if for no other reason than to show respect for that country. If you live in the United States, please learn the language. -- RICHARD WATSON, PORTLAND, ORE.

DEAR RICHARD: I suspect that many people who speak a foreign language in the presence of those who do not understand it are ignorant of the fact that they are being rude.

A common language brings people together. Historically, learning English was a priority for German, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Japanese immigrants (to name a few) because it helped them participate in the communities they joined. And because the United States is still predominantly an English-speaking country, that practice should continue today.

DEAR ABBY: Perhaps you will indulge me by printing one more letter regarding the English/Spanish controversy.

I have been unable to obtain work in Southern California despite 14 years' experience, excellent references and a willingness to work. The reason: I cannot speak Spanish.

Property management is my specialty. After attending classes for seven years while working full time, I received all of the certification that the National Apartment Association offers.

Advertisements in the papers state, "bilingual only need apply." Why must an American-born, English-speaking person be required to speak a foreign language to qualify for employment? I would like to see your response, and perhaps the response of others who have been denied employment because they speak only English. -- UNHAPPILY RETIRED IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

DEAR UNHAPPILY RETIRED: Employers must be practical. Because California has a large Spanish-speaking population and many businesses depend on Spanish-speaking customers and subcontractors, they need employees who can speak Spanish. It's a matter of economics.

DEAR ABBY: I was having a conversation with an elderly Hispanic gentleman recently when a man approached us from 100 feet away and admonished us to speak English because "we're in America now, you know."

I replied: "Why? Because you're too stupid to learn a foreign language? We weren't talking to you or about you. Besides, there wouldn't be much point because this gentleman doesn't speak English."

In a recent column you stated that it is extremely rude to speak a foreign language in front of someone who doesn't speak that language. However, what is even more rude is listening to someone else's conversation when they aren't speaking to you. -- DAVE WILLIS, DALLAS

DEAR DAVE: When I said that it's rude to speak a foreign language in front of someone who doesn't speak that language, it was in the context of a social situation in which there were four people. I was not talking about two individuals having a private conversation in a public place.

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