Ignoring this issue will not make it go away

Posted: May 19, 2008 in Headlines, Our children

Black Teens Feel the ‘Bilingual Preferred’ Summer Job Blues

Black Voice News, News Report, Chris Levister

‘Don’t speak Spanish…can’t get the job?’

When San Bernardino High School teens Jazanique Jackson, Ashanae Brown and Kimyen Hawkins decided they wanted to work this summer, they left nothing to chance.

They knew the rules: plan ahead; role play; be positive; adapt; relate and encourage. So when they hit the streets to start their summer job search they were prepared for virtually every eventuality except one.

¿No habla ingles? Can’t speak Spanish.

“We were shocked. We applied at places like McDonalds, Burger King and Jack in the Box. We went to shoe stores, pizza parlors and convenience stores. The workers were overwhelmingly Spanish speaking. Pretty much they always ask us, ‘Do you speak Spanish?’ They said we prefer bilingual,” says Jazanique. And, as an American who only speaks English, her answer leaves her without the job. “It’s hard when you can’t even get an interview because you don’t speak Spanish,” said Jazanique.

For Jazanique, Ashanae and Kimyen the job hunting experience is both frustrating and sobering.


Cashier-customer exchanges at four national fast food restaurants located at the busy intersection of Mt. Vernon and Washington Streets in Colton bore out many of the teen’s frustrations.

San Bernardino High School teens Jazanique Jackson, Ashanae Brown And Kimyen Hawkins are feeling the chill from employers who perfer bilingual workers.

Cashier: “Welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order?”

Customer in Spanish: “Dame dos hamburgesas con queso, un Big Mac, dos papitas fritas y tres sodas.” – Translation: “Give me two cheeseburgers, one Big Mac, two fries, three Cokes.”

Cashier in Spanish: “¿Grandes o chicas?” – Translation: small or large fries?

Customer in Spanish: “Grande” – Translation: Large

Cashier in Spanish: “¿Algo Mas? – Translation: Anything else?

Customer in Spanish: “¿Puedo usar mi tarjeta?” Translation: Can I use my debit?

Cashier in Spanish: “Si” – Translation: yes

Across the street at the Jack in the Box, the buzz among the all Latino staff was a mix of English and Spanish.

“Necesito mas popotes” That was Maggie Castro, on-duty manager, Saturday, calling for a replenishment of straws in the customer self service bins. “Keep this area clean,” said Castro wiping the countertop.

“That’s what we’re up against. It’s a form of discrimination,” says Jazanique.

And it brings up the question: is it legal, in America, to require an American citizen to speak a foreign language to get certain jobs? (more…)

  1. Symphony says:

    It should be illegal unless its some mom and pop store. I’ve watched many people in my family looking for the low paying jobs get frustrated over the Spanish a must or Spanish a plus (which means the same thing).

    And how about the reverse? When I lived in Miami there were many times that I wondered if English was a requirement because some employees could barely speak it.

    And I believe kids should learn a foreign language in elementary school. I’m teaching my son Spanish and I’ve formally studied three languages.

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