Ramon Tells about His Experience
My name is Ramon.I work in a factory with a lot of Americans. One afternoon a few months ago, one of my
American co-workers started a conversation with me during break time.
"Hey,Ramon.Are you the only child in your family?"
"No, I have three brothers."
"What are their names?"
"Carmen, Maria and Jose."
When I said that, the other workers started laughing. One of them called me "stupid."I walked away from them with a sick feeling in my stomach.I didn't know why they'd laughed or why they'd called me "stupid", but I felt confused and ashamed.
For the rest of the afternoon, I thought about the reaction of my co-workers to the way I spoke English. I had been in this country for less than a year.Not having any money to go to school to learn English, I listened to the way the Americans at work spoke,and I tried to imitate them.Of course I made a lot of mistakes,but my co-workers were not very helpful. I could tell that they didn't like repeating for me things I didn't understand. When I didn't understand something, they became impatient. When I made a mistake in grammar of pronunciation, they made strange faces or made fun of me by imitating my mistakes and my accent.
That night I told my elder brother about my experience at work.He showed me my mistake.While in my native Spanish "hermanos" could sometimes mean both "brothers" and "sisters", it could only mean "brother" in English. Then I understood why the Americans had called me "stupid".They thought I didn't know the difference between a brother and a sister. The shame I'd felt that afternoon at work returned.
That same night I decided that I didn't want to suffer any more shame and humiliation because of the way I spoke English.I didn't want to hear the laughter of others any more. I made up my mind not to speak English at work unless I absolutely had to,or unless I was sure that what I was saying was absolutely correct.