I've spent my entire life living in Arizona and Southern California. As such, it is unacceptable that I only speak English, especially considering that the majority of the population of the city in which I live is of Mexican descent. There's no excuse. I'm at a horrible disadvantage and it's downright embarrassing at times.
For the last week and a half, I've been working at a school in my own neighborhood. Not the school closest to me, but one about three miles away. I've worked on the Elementary side of this school before, and while it is made up primarily of Hispanic children, there is somewhat of a racial mix. My current assignment is in the State Preschool. The children attending are all of Mexican descent and all speak Spanish in the home. Some of their parents only speak Spanish, and all written information from the school is sent home in both languages.
The interesting thing about this age group is that some of them don't really differentiate between the two languages. When I ask them about the items in the play kitchen, they identify eggs as "huevos" and grapes as "grapes." Red is "rojo" but yellow is "yellow." They all seem to understand commands in English, but it's not unusual for the kids to come up to me and tell me a story or ask me something in Spanish. Most of the time I can just smile and say "yes" and all is well, but sometimes I have to send the poor kids over to the aide to tell her what they want, because I can't help them. Yet, I have managed to find a few kids who understand that there are, in fact, two languages being spoken and that I'm useless when it comes to Spanish. I've found my own little four-year-old translators who help me out while looking at me as if I'm the stupidest person they've ever met.
I think that if I were to spend an extended amount of time in this classroom, I'd really pick up some useful phrases --at least useful for kids. It's definitely a challenge, but it's also fun to learn so much from such tiny little people.