Foreign languages vs American provincialism

Leave a Reply

Comment as a guest.

  1. Hey, your “blogospheric right” link points to an 11×12 PNG graphic somewhere… no article or anything.
    [polimom — Ooops!  Sorry — all better now…]

  2. I think that they’re (most English-speaking people’s) use of the English language is deplorable! They should have paid more attention to there teachers, don’t you think? So their!

  3. I’ve been bilingual all my life (English is my second language) and the ability to think in more than one language is invaluable. Translations can’t give the same inside view into another culture.
    Even partial familiarity with other languages aid understanding what across borders conversatons really convey.
    Obama made perfect sence, common sense, that is.

  4. English only. No bilingual junk in the schools, either. Immigrants need to learn English period. Also, I don’t care what Europe does.

  5. I’m in total agreement with this up to a point. I think it’s somewhat imperialist to force feed children Spanish in the public schools and would, rather, urge that parents at least be given the choice to choose either French or Spanish. You may have noticed that most everything we buy these days comes in boxes labeled in English, French and Spanish. Since I have nothing culturally in common with the Hispanic community and do have a cultural background in common with the French as do so many of us here, I find it much more pleasing both to the ear and tongue. I would note as well that there is a large “Francophile” community here. I encouraged my daughter to study French and as a result she’s spent several summers there and may never return. Thus, the adoption of French language studies has a nifty side effect for those non-racists who hate Anglo/European Americans because they are “white”, French enables them to leave and never again return!

  6. Hi Glide! Long time!
    So far as I know, neither Obama nor anyone one else (rational) has suggested a single language of study, Spanish or otherwise.

  7. First of all, it’s nice that everyone is busy agreeing that immigrants should learn English. They should all be relieved by lnguistic studies that show that current Spanish-speaking immigrants are acquiring English generally faster than their historical counterparts from European countries. (Uh oh, what are we going to be outraged about now?)
    Seriously people – you go to all the trouble of coming to America to have a chance at economic success, and you wouldn’t want your kids to learn the language of the affluent, or business, etc.? Er… right.
    As for teaching kids foreign languages, it’s such a no-brainer that it’s kind of amazing to hear the well-paid, highly-educated powerfully connected people at the Weekly Standard calling Obama a “snob” over this. (Think about how ludicrous a Weekly Standard writer calling anybody a snob is for a moment…)
    Take a look through help wanted ads. Guess what: speaking Spanish is a huge advantage in the job market. Not just because of Spanish-speakers in the US, but because you may have noticed a large country and a whole big continent to the south of us with whom we do a lot trade where people speak Spanish?
    There are large French speaking parts of the world, and German is very useful in eastern Europe. Why, why, why would you not want your kid to acquire as much foreign language as possible while he or she is young enough to learn it really well? Are you out to limit your kid’s future prospects? Do you want to make sure they can’t get certain jobs or live in certain places?
    Idiotic.
    As for packaging: you see English, French, and Spanish for very simple, practical reasons. Good are typically packaged for sale in more than one place. Canada has 1/10 our population and by law goods much be packaged in French and English. It’s often more efficient to simply package things for sale in both the US and Canada. As for the Spanish, it’s because consumers like it. That’s the same reason you see billboards and signs in Spanish. Many of the people reading them also speak English, but people respond better to things in their native language, and if you are a a company who wants their business, that’s important.
    Plus, if information is safety related, it’s simply common sense to include languages that will make it accessible to people, Even if you’ve learned a good amount of English, it’s not always easy to understand everything, and if there’s a safety warning, better that it be in multiple languages.
    When I was in France two years ago, I noticed that in Paris – home of the fanatic Francophiles who can’t stand any desecration of their language – signs on the Metro, at the airports, in many places were in French, English, German, and Italian. Somehow the Republic has not fallen. I guess they have this funny idea that making things accessible to visitors is smart. Incroyable!
    There’s something very humbling about being in an environment where you don’t speak the language. I struggled mightily in France, as well as Spain. Germany was easier with my rusty German, but still tough. I have great sympathy for any Spanish-speaking adult who comes to live in the US – it’s not easy, and if you’re busy taking care of basics like putting food on the table, it’s even harder. It’s also not that different from what immigrants in the past faced, and the solution is often the same – Mom and Dad often never got more than barely functional in the new language, and depended on the kids to translate into Italian, German, Polish, etc.
    If you have kids, give them opportunities to learn foreign languages, the more the better. You’ll be giving them an asset that will pay off for the rest of their lives. Don’t be stupid about it.

  8. I’ll also note that finding Americans with a full mastery of English – without a second language – is getting rather difficult. One can only with that those who are so intent that our language be the only language they hear might make a point of learning to use it correctly.

  9. One can only HOPE, that is. Boy, is it embarrassing to leave a word out when complaining about poor language skills of others….

  10. A number of years ago I went with my husband on a trip to Belgium. He was teaching a class for the company he worked for.
    I went to lunch at a small deli around the block from the hotel. Two girls in their late teens were serving. I asked if they spoke English. The reply was: “Of course, we also speak Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian and some German.
    I wanted to crawl under the table. The idea that “our way” is the only way is stupid. I think it is why we are fast becoming a 2nd rate country unable to adapt to a changing world.
    All parents should insist their children learn at least one other language.

  11. When I lived in Holland, it was a pre-req to graduate from High School that you become fluent in 4 languages – Dutch, English, French, and German. When I graduated (in Venezuela), I was fluent in Spanish – and could (and did) read Portuguese.
    So, I don’t see anything wrong with Sen. Obama’s remarks. The overreaction in the MSM and blogosphere is IMHO the result of people engaging mouth (or fingers) before brain.
    ~EdT.

  12. I agree that being multi-lingual is a valuable skill. However it is also a matter of personal choice. I believe the issue here is that English should be America’s official language. I do not support the use of bilingual materials in any government office. There are 100’s of them; ballots, motor vehicle instruction booklets, SSN & Medicare forms, and on and on.
    Every time I get an application in the mail it has a multilingual component. Instruction booklets, and I emphasize the plural, are multilingual and come in quantities that rival my wife’s catalog collections which come in the mail. There is a $ cost to all of this but more importantly it take the onus off of the immigrant to learn English and fully assimilate into our country. To me it’s tantamount to giving a child the answers to a school test as a crutch, just in case they were too lazy to study.

Read Next

Sliding Sidebar