Friday, June 03, 2005

Wrong Numbers

Two text messages appeared on my phone today.

Both of them were in semi-Spanish, badly spelled, sounding desperate. One read, "Van que ago luz me enpaco toda mi ropa i medijo alachingada no me ables."

My guess is that "ago" should have been hago, (which would mean "I make" or "I do"); the "i" should probably been y (and), "medijo" me dijo (he told me), and "ables" hablas (you speak).

The other said, "5 meses separarnos quantos veses le pruente que se venga patras que mas puedo acer quantos tiempola devo de sperran 5 meses u anyo no sabe no se fini"

Okay, "pruente" has me stumped. So does "patras," and why "patras" are avenged, more than the sender is able to do. "acer" would be hacer. And the significance of "how much time I must they lose five months and year he doesn't know I don't know" is lost on me.

What also stumps me is how the second message was sent to my phone, with my phone number as origin. Tomorrow I make a trip to Verizon, hand someone the phone, and say, "Fix this."

La cosa mas importante (the most important thing) that I see here is speakers of Spanish who can't spell or use grammar correctly -- kind of like speakers of English who can't manage a more profound conversation than "Whuuuut? No fuckin' shit, man, I jus' told him, hey fuck this, man, y'know, and he fuckin' was like, 'Whuuut?'" No, I'm not kidding, real overheard conversation. It went on and on, with no more real information than that.

I'm going to call two cosas on the carpet. The first is the public education system. While each public school has Mascots and sports programs, colored markers and pens and whiteboards and lesson plans for group work, and lots of assemblies and awards and groovy playground equipment, they don't seem to have a sense of what the students are supposed to learn before they leave the hallowed halls of the school. In English, or in Spanish.

I had the opportunity to attend a "Conversational Spanish" class for 6 weeks a year and some ago, and I was disgusted by the squalor of the classroom we used at the elementary school up the street. Not only was the room filthy, but it was so cluttered with shit -- inconsequential shit -- that you could hardly see the walls. There were no desks, just dirty tables with student supplies stacked on them, beside tattered name cards indicating whose cruddy space was whose.

Yet Weston Elementary is one of the best public schools in the state, and is certainly better than some private schools I've seen.

I can't imagine teaching in such a room, which might better be called a "cloaca". I can't imagine learning in such a room, in such filth and constriction.

Toss in there those little students who speak English or Spanish at home, who hear shouts and screams of acrimony as 50% of their parents divorce, who regularly see on television adultery, violent death, and the ever-popular rude and contentious role of children towards adults, and what do you get? Unmotivated, despairing blobs who know that the system will pass them through, no matter what. If they show up every day and play on a sports team, they'll be awarded, no matter what they learn. If they show up every day and beat up smaller kids and hand out cigarettes to their classmates, they'll still receive an award for showing up every day.

My text-messagers are damn near illiterate. Maybe it's 133t Spanish, I don't know. But they are not going to hold jobs of responsibility with that kind of spelling, unless we're heading into some kind of Dark Age, where dialects separate and become distinct languages, (which is not at all unlikely, given the state of the government).

Public education is wasting its time when not focusing on Math, Grammar, Reading, and History. But I'll come back to that in many another blog entry.

Number Two in the lineup is my mother. She refused to teach me Spanish, or speak Spanish to me. Over and over again she told me that her mother insisted that her children speak only English, because they came to America and they had to be Americans. I even bought that when I was little.

However, when we went to visit Grammy Palos (who the hell thought up that name? She must have longed to be called Abuela or Abuelita) it was to be seen that I could not communicate with her at all because she spoke no English. So how the hell did she tell stories and talk with her five kids if they were not allowed to use anything but English? My mother didn't speak to her in English, she spoke in Spanish. I was out in the cold, and never developed an "ear" for my mother tongue. I can read it, if it's textbook grammatically correct, and not too complicated, but what my mother can hear in the chitchat of Hispanics who have moved into her neighborhood from New York is unintelligible to me. I wasn't allowed to hear it, just to read it.

And still unintelligible now, to read scrawls by those who were allowed to speak it, but not write it.

We're all screwed.

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