Ave et vale, julian castro and musings on bilingualism

By Richard K. Munro

So Julian Castro (have you noticed? ) is out of the 2020 presidential race. I can’t say I was ever impressed or intrigued by him. Mr. Castro’s lack of Spanish fluency was just one factor about his education and background. Another factor would be his diction in English and what kind of education or culture he displayed in his speeches. What logic he used. What values he has. Obviously, speaking and studying Spanish was not a high value for him. Everyone in our family speaks Spanish. Like our religious faith it is a high value for us. Yesterday we had dinner with friends and spent the entire afternoon talking and joking in Spanish. We are Hispanophiles or native Spanish speakers from Chile, Peru, Spain and Mexico. All of us are fluent in English and comfortable in the Anglosphere but there is no question that the ladies in the room felt more at home in Spanish, their home languages. In my extended family, Spanish and French are the predominant languages. Only a small cohort -those born and educated in the USA or Canada-are fluent English-speakers. So when we get together on holidays Spanish is the predominant language with some small lapses into French, Scots or Gaelic for some older people. As time goes by the Scots quotient diminishes to only one, two or three people (all over 60 years of age) I don’t expect most Irish Americans to speak Irish Gaelic or Scots to speak Scots Gaelic BUT their attitude towards the language IS important to me. It is hard for me to like someone who dislikes my language or my wife’s language. I don’t like crude nativism. For most of my life, I would say my language has been the subject of scorn, humor, and satire. People laughed. People thought it was useless, silly even ugly. They said it had absolutely no utility whatsoever. I have strong memories of being publicly mocked and the cruelty of my classmates.The end result is most of the time I keep my knowledge to myself. But I know this: those of us who are multilingual in my family started off speaking two or three languages and branched out from there. Being open to other languages made it easy and desirable to learn to read, write and speak in languages other than English. I realize few understand my language and fewer have any interest in it whatsoever. But I cherish my friends who love the old language, it’s music, literature and song.But knowing other cultures and speaking other languages seems very important to me. Someone who is so parochial as not to know any other language. -even a passing acquaintance or reading knowledge of a language- demonstrates to me a serious educational failing. Similarly, so one who demonstrates zero interest in religion or ethical values merely political ones seems a very flat personality to me. I am sure Julian Castro is a nice fellow and a man who seeks justice for others -good characteristics). However, I have to say he never impressed me by leadership, moral character or intellect. To me, he was just another marginally prepared and marginally educated politician. If I am mistaken I would be glad to be corrected by him or by others.

But I would need a lot of evidence to change my opinion.