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The English Language as a Weapon of Discrimination

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Let’s start out the week with a language game. Ready? Try the following (my apologies deutsche Sprecher for the use of an online translator):

Weg zurück im Oktober 2005, der Eigentümer von Steaks von Geno, Joe Vento, des Südlichen Philadelphias, legte ein Zeichen in sein Schaufenster, das seine nichtenglischen sprechenden Kunden ermahnt, mit ihm seinen Weg mitzuteilen. Sein Zeichen sagte, "Das ist Amerika: wenn Sie bitte bestellen, sprechen Sie Englisch."

If you weren’t able to read the passage, it’s because you don’t understand German. The passage could’ve told you any number of things – that your spouse has been cheating on you since 2005 or that you must forward this message to 2,005 of your closest friends lest you will meet a horrible death in the coming days.

It doesn’t matter what it says, what it requests of you, or what information it holds that might be of help to you. The passage might as well not exist for non-German speakers for all the good it does someone who doesn’t understand German.

For clarification, I give you the passage in English.

Way back in October 2005, Geno’s Steaks’ owner, Joe Vento, of South Philadelphia, placed a sign in his shop window exhorting his non-English speaking customers to communicate with him his way. His sign said, “This is America: When ordering please speak English.”

As if it weren’t enough that Mr. Vento wrote his proclamation to non-English speakers in English, The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations still, two years later, asserts that the sign was offensive to those who couldn’t read it. In a couple of months or so, the commission will conclude its 2006 investigation by deciding whether or not Mr. Vento was in violation of a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination.

The waste of Philadelphia’s taxpayer money aside, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or more than a few minutes) to conclude that Mr. Vento is not guilty of discriminating against non-English speakers, much less offending those who don’t understand the language. Until I told you what the opening passage said, you didn’t know what it said – and couldn’t have been offended by it.

Mr. Vento is just an English-centric idiot, evidenced by his use of English to chide those who don’t understand English. If that’s a crime, start building bigger prisons because we’re going to be locking up about 80% of America’s population.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • http://blogcritics.org/ Phillip Winn

    I recognized a few words — October and Philadelphia, mainly — but I was offended that I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t suggesting something about my wife having traveled to that city…

    No, I’m kidding. Good call.

  • http://none George Levoy

    No doubt about it—age discrimination is rampant in this country. One thing that will have a positive impact is to change the laws that prohibit disclosure of complaints
    filed against employment agencies and employers. They demand all sorts of information about applicants and the applicants can get literally no information about them. That is grossly unfair. Having disclosure of information that is, in fact, not privacy issues helps the applicant decide if he/she wants to deal with an entity that has a history of complaints for a particular alleged violation of law. There is no balance in the current laws in that respect.

    How can the unfair laws be changed?
    Would employment lawyers support the law changes?
    The following statement more accurately describes age discrimination in the US.
    “Age discrimination is insidiously rampant.”

  • http://www.themidnightcafe.org Mat Brewster

    Couldn’t those that don’t understand it have it translated and then be offended? Translation and poor wording in the law suit aside, the sign is offensive.

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