It's the holiday hustle-bustle. East Contra Costa homes are alive with the sound of happy words ... words that echo off the walls in dozens of different languages. People living here are from all corners of the globe.
Contra Costa has the second most diverse population in California, a state where one out of every three wasn't born in America. Language is easy when you're raised with it. Learning a new language is something else. But most locals agree that being multi-lingual can be an important key to success.
Barry Brightwell of Brentwood learned to speak Spanish out of necessity. "I have Latino employees and communication with them is vital," he said. "It may sound strange, but learning Spanish helped me speak better English. It gave me a better understanding of grammar and word construction. Now I'd like to learn a Philippine language to talk more easily with my wife's family."
Oakley's Daniel De La Rosa sees knowing multiple languages as a way to learn about other people. "It's a big window on the world that brings people closer together. I find it a wonderful way to understand other cultures, he said. "I learned Spanish in my family and it's helped me in numerous ways."
"The easiest way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it," said Paula Carlson of Discovery Bay. "I did it with Spanish. I put myself in a situation where I was forced to learn it. I refused to speak English unless I absolutely had to.
Cedric May of Brentwood speaks only English but would like to learn Latin as a means of educational enjoyment. "I've done a lot of reading about the earth's ancient past. It fascinates me. I try to educate myself, but learning Latin takes more time," he said. "Maybe I'll learn to master Latin after I retire," he said.
Antioch's Chris Martin is another local who wants to learn Latin. "No one talks it any more, but a lot of songs I sang made a deep impression on me. There is so much beauty and depth in the language," he said. "It's unlikely that I'll ever master it. The best I can do is Pig-Latin and hardly anyone uses that any more."
Brentwood's Melanie Long is a school teacher who admits she would be better at her job if she spoke Spanish. "It would be very helpful in being able to better communicate with many of the parents," she said. "I took classes in Spanish in high school and college but it didn't stick. Learning multiple languages is a big plus in today's world."
Adrianna Pantell of Antioch agrees. "It's extremely helpful in the job market," she said. "I wish I could speak Spanish and I plan to go back to school when I have more time. I used to speak it a little. But it's easy to lose a language if you don't use it."
"I certainly plan for my son to be multi-lingual."
Julio Sanchez of Oakley speaks Spanish and now wants to add Chinese as his third language. "Language is vital for communication and better understanding of people's differences. China is on the rise as a power and being able to better communicate has to pay off big. One other thing, I like Chinese food when I eat out," he laughed.
Contact Ed Arnow at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.