It always drives me batty when Americans complain about immigrants who can't speak English, as if they are lazy or stupid or entitled or something, just because they can't speak the language. I mean, c'mon, lots of these people are working long hours at hard jobs for low wages and don't have the time or the money to enroll in language classes, so they are forced to get by with what they know. Not ideal, but that's the life they live.
Sometimes it's the life I live, too, which maybe adds to my sympathy level for immigrants back in the States.
For example: yesterday.
Yesterday was Kyra's parent-teacher conference day, so I skipped out of work for an hour to see what her teachers had to say about her. She attends a local school, where classes are conducted half the day in English and half in Arabic, with 30 minutes of French thrown in for good measure.
I met with the English teacher first, and it was all good, of course. Reading, math, writing, etc, etc, etc.
Then I went to the Arabic classroom, where I was met by three teachers, one of whom didn't speak English. So the entire conversation was conducted (on their side) in Arabic and (on my side) in nods and raised eyebrows. Seriously, I had NO IDEA what they were saying. Something about writing, maybe. Or behavior? And they sat there talking to each other, glancing at me occasionally as I nodded and brow-furrowed my way through the meeting. Finally, one of them remembered something critical.
"You don't speak Arabic, do you?" she asked, and I confirmed that my Arabic comprehension was just shway-shway.
"But how long have you lived here?" she asked, befuddled. Shamefacedly, I admitted that I have been here for a year and a half. To save face, I added, in Arabic "Arabic is very hard! And everyone here speaks such good English!" (At least I think that's what I said.)
She forgave me, I think, and we switched to English.
I explained that sometimes Kyra doesn't do her homework because I can't read the instructions, so I can't help her. Also, I don't really know my numbers (I can say them, but I can't read them), so when they send home math problems, I can't correct them.
We all had a good laugh, and they agreed to send home a number chart for me so I can learn my numbers alongside Kyra.
Really, though, it's embarrassing to go in there and admit that I can't even participate in kindergarten-level homework after a year and a half here. It's not a good feeling, not at all.
That said, now that I'm done with my Russian test (3+/3+, in case you were wondering, so it's not as if I'm a complete foreign language dolt), it's back to Arabic class for me next week.