Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Obama is Embarrassed by Americans

There's a reason people in Europe a multilingual. They're Europeans. They don't have a common language, except English.

And they're having a very difficult time becoming a European nation because of it.

I understand the value of learning other languages. I've learned a smattering of Spanish, French, Japanese, Latin, and Ancient Greek, though the latter two not conversationally. But learning these languages forces one to see a different map on reality, and helps in learning one's own language better.

But I understand even more the importance of language to culture. When I can walk into any restaurant, shop, or business and know that I can communicate without trouble with the people there, it makes my life easier. It makes it easier for me to succeed, and easier to trust my neighbors.

I want the people who are my countrymen to share my culture, ideas, and beliefs. That is why having a common language is important. In America, for better or worse, we speak English. Those who immigrate here should learn the language so they can fit in, rather than insisting that everyone else adjust to them.

Everyone the world over wants to learn English. They don't want to learn French. French is a pretty language, sure, prettier than English. But still, people clamor to learn the language of freedom.

Go figure.

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KnightErrant said...

Living in California as I do I have a different perspective on language. On any given day I will hear English and Spanish spoken, of course. I often also hear Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Aramaic, we have a large Chaldean community here. Laotian is not uncommon. At tourist locations I will hear Japanese and German spoken. Then there is the sea of dialects from Spanglish to Valley-speak to Texan drawl.

I really feel sorry for monoglot communities. There's must be a dull, colorless existence. Living in such a place must be like that movie "Pleasantville" where everything is a bland black and white.

Loren Heal said...

Dull and colorless? Not even.

You may hear all of these many languages spoken, but do you understand them? No, you don't. Perhaps a smattering, a phrase here or there. Maybe you've mastered one of them well enough to be fluent, to think in it.

But for all of the languages in which you are not fluent, the ideas expressed around you in those languages are as closed to you as they are to me, not even hearing the sounds.

If this is the color and vitality you seek, then it is a very superficial sort. It has the appearance of diversity, but is in fact only of two sorts, intelligible and unintelligible, the latter being of no value whatever.

KnightErrant said...

You wrote about the culture of language and it is there where monoglot societies stagnate. Where different languages thrive different cultures thrive and blend as well.

I have tried, and deleted, many ways to explain this. I've decided it is like explaining the color red to a blind person. There is no common frame of reference.

Communication happens. Often in a common tongue, English is after all the language of commerce. Excluding eavesdropping, intelligibility is not a problem. Yet there is so much more to understanding than mere words.

I object to cultural homogenization. A lot is lost if the only thing Americans know of the Irish culture is green beer. Because so many languages are alive here we have beautiful array of cultures living here as well.

This is a fact some people embrace. Others are terrified of it.

Robocop said...

This is another reason a one world government will not work. Thanks for posting this.

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