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Mexican Culture/Mexican culture and language


Dear C. Reyes-Hull,

I am in 4th grade and I need to ask you a few questions about Mexico and the Spanish language.  I'm studying these things in Enrichment.

How do languages form?
Do you think the U.S. should use bilingual language?
What are the differences and similarities between the cultures in Spain and Mexico?
What is it like for the Mexicans when they come over to the U.S.?

Thank you for your time!

Hi, Tavis,

I will try to answer your questions and hope this is helpful to you:

There are many theories about where languages come from. Some say they all come from a "Mother Tongue", a language that all the other languages originated from. Some say that each human group, each tribe, came up with their own language: a sound got adopted as meaning a thing by the whole group and became used all the time for that thing ("ick" for "sickness" for example- it was short, easy and sounded like bad).
In many ways that is how new words for languages form. For example, the sound "ick" started to be used for yucky... then someone added the S at the beginning and it became "sick". All languages are "living" things. That means that, like living organisms, they are born, they grow, they change and they can also die. There are many languages (tongues) that are already considered "dead" because all the people that used to speak them are not living anymore. English was very different in it's beginnings, it changed to what it sounds like today through many centuries. English came from the mix of the languages or tongues of many tribes as are most of the modern languages.
Now, all languages also borrow words from other languages. In English we borrow a lot of words from other languages: "taco", "salsa", "violin", etc. from Spanish; "ramen" and "sushi" from Japanese; most of the medical terms come from Latin; etc.
I think everyone should learn more than one language. To be bilingual (speak two languages) is hard when you are older - over 10 years of age- but it is very easy to learn a second language when you are little. When you are very young, you learn a language in a natural way and your brain receives easily. If you learn two languages when you are little, learning more languages is very easy. You can be trilingual (speak 3 languages), or polyglot (speaks many languages). Most people in Europe (no matter what country they are from) speak at least Spanish, English, Italian and French. The more languages you know, the more people you can speak to, the more friends you can have. Wouldn't you like to understand what everyone said?
Now, the US is a country built on immigration. The only native people of the US did not speak English: they spoke many indigenous languages. Then the colonists (immigrants) from England, Ireland, Italy, Spain and France came to what is now the US. There have always been many languages spoken in the US. The South (Louisiana, Florida, etc.) spoke French, the Southwest (California, Arizona, New Mexico) spoke Spanish, there was a lot of Italian spoken in the North East. It was decided that maybe if we all spoke one language, everyone would get along better and English was chosen to be that language. The US is still a country of immigrants, and there are still many languages spoken and many people speak English.
The differences between Spain and Mexico can take me hours to write about. But mainly, Spain is a European culture that evolved from the mix of Roman conquerors and the native tribes of the Iberic peninsula. They conquered Mexico (and many other regions of the Americas) in the 1800's and forced the inhabitants to work for them (as slaves). When Mexico became independent from Spain, some inhabitants were of Indian blood, some of white European blood and some of African blood, but most were of mixed blood. Most people in Mexico speak Spanish very similar to the Spanish spoken in the central area of Spain (Castillian), but it is mixed with some native terms (from the Indigenous inhabitants of the Americas). Did you know that the word "chocolate" comes from the Aztec word "xocolatl"? Aztecs spoke a language called Nahuatl. Nahuatl is still spoken by many people in Mexico.
The US is very different to Mexico in many ways, but it is also very similar. Most of the things you do and have in the US are the same a lot of people have in Mexico. But there are also very poor people in Mexico like in the US. Like in very poor areas in the US, there is no electricity, but people just live like the people used to live many years ago. The biggest change there is when some Mexicans come to he US is that everything is regulated (for example: rules on where to cross the street, on where you can grow a garden), that you have less freedom to do things (for example: can't walk to places because there are few sidewalks and too many cars) and that everything is bought in a store (you can grow your own vegetables and have your own chickens). To many people in Mexico, coming to the US is normal and not different at all from how they live in Mexico, though, and many are fully bilingual.

Hope this helps.

Mexican Culture

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