Arlan, Maylin, Wani are doing their hair at the hair salon, although only Maylin has the money to do the flat ironing and highlighting. They always book the same time so that they can talk and catch up with each other. Sometimes if they don’t think they have talked enough, they would go to the cafe next to the Korean grocery store to continue their talk.
Arlan: I can’t believe his nerve. He asks me how many languages I know–Vietnamese, Hokkien, Cantonese, Mandarin, Malay, Thai, English. Can you believe that? It’s just a little tiny accounting office like a pigeon hole. It’s an accountant and manager position–a lot of requirement and he’s paying the lowest salary possible.
Maylin: I tell you. In this greater New York area, the more language one knows, the worse one’s earning power.
Wani: You must be kidding.
Maylin: Go get the community newspaper from New York City.
The hairdresser keeps old newspaper and magazines at a corner and Wani fetches a little pile of them. Maylin flips through.
Maylin: If you work as an analyst in Wall Street, you need to know English only; working in grocery stores or restaurants or small offices, many languages. Sometimes Asian languages and English are not enough–Spanish and Italian are added on top of that.
Maylin: Look here. A grocery store is looking for a manager. After Korean, Vietnamese, and a parade of Asian languages, it says, Spanish and Italian a plus. Look here yourself.
The three women laugh loudly.
Wani: Why? Speaking so many languages in a grocery store?
Maylin: They must have patrons who speak Spanish or Italian. Or the delivery boy who speaks Spanish or Italian.