The foreign language situation in my area

The language situation here in Chandler is fairly diverse. Just today at the supermarket an older couple were speaking Tohono O’odham or Pima. The reservation is just a few blocks away. In the Phoenix Greyhound Bus station I listened to two young women chatting in the same language and I asked them where they were from and their home was a little south of here, in the heart of the reservation.

Spanish is, of course, spoken everywhere and in some supermarkets and shops many of the clerks do not speak English. That depends on the neighborhood, ethnic groupings occurring according to immigrant status. Many neighborhoods are Hispanic but English-speaking.

Electronic firms like Intel have attracted workers from all over the world; African kids, Asian kids, Latin-Am kids in schools I have subbed in usually reveal their parents work in computer-related or electronics fields. Going to CostCo is a language feast. Sometimes it seems like no one there speaks English but the staff.

Church marquees identify the congregations by ethnicity or language: Korean, Haitain, Chinese, etc. Most languages of European origin are spoken by individuals rather than in the ethnic neighborhoods still found back East. The sub-continent provides many professionals so Hindi, Urdu, Malayalm, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali, Gujurati, Punjabi, etc. are all commonly heard.

The only ethnic/religious groups identifiable by dress would some Muslims – we have a lot of Middle Easterners here – but they can be native-born and more and more Hispanics are converting to Islam. At the public pool several women dressed not only themselves in hijaab but their children, female, naturally, wore long-john-type clothing in the pool. You also see simple head-scarves. People from the sub-continent seem not to give up their dress, at least when at home; you can see couples out walking in shalvar, sari, etc. And then some Indians from Mexico have a certain appearance that makes them identifiable. Native Americans here in AZ, esp Navahos, will often wear traditional clothing but that usually means they are just visiting from the reservation up north. You can hear Navaho frequently in places like the VA Hospital.

So for a language nut like me, the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix and surrounding towns like Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale, Glendale….) offers many opportunities to at least hear languages and many ethnic groups like the Japanese and the Greeks have ethnic festivals yearly. There you get the food, too, one of the best parts of other cultures.

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