Monday, September 21, 2009

Common Sense

Here I go on one of my common sense diatribes.
Back to History in the next blog - - - - (every once in a while I have to get things off my chest - this is one of those times)

Interesting conversation of late... my good friend has a foreign exchange student from Germany staying with her for a few months and is sending her to a local high school. While discussing this with college friends of my son, it was brought up that the young lady spoke fluent English, which turned the discussion into how, in Europe, students are taught to speak more than one language practically from birth. Now, a few of the college age kids noted how "dumb" and conceited Americans are in that they don't feel the need to learn a foreign language; we feel we're too good to learn another language.
I brought up the fact that if each state in our union spoke a different language - much in the way Europe is set up with their countries and languages - then we, too, would know more foreign languages. Case in point: a very large segment of Americans living on the Tex/Mex border can speak Spanish, while the greater majority of folks here in Michigan (or Kansas, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, etc.) cannot, due mainly to the fact that those of Spanish descent that are living here speak...well...English.
Let's face it, here in Michigan there is little opportunity to speak a foreign language unless you are taking a foreign language class. And even then, who, besides your classmates, will you hold a conversation with, unless you get a job as a foreign correspondent of some sort (or if you plan on doing quite a bit of world traveling)?
The residents of Europe travel frequently between their countries, much as we in the U.S. do between states. Therefore, folks across the Atlantic find it much to their advantage to learn their neighboring country's languages.
Living here in the states, however, does not give most people the opportunity to learn and use other languages. My own state of Michigan is totally surrounded by English-speaking people, some with differing dialects, but English nonetheless.
Does that make us (as one college student spouted) dumb?
I guess in today's society I expect that, to many, maybe the answer is yes, given the way the media promotes dumb Americans.
Yeah, and that drives me crazy.
Anyhow, let's put it all into perspective: I can pretty much guarantee that if the people of Ohio spoke, for instance, German, and the population in Indiana spoke Italian, and the Canadians living across the Detroit River in Windsor spoke exclusively French - much like the different speaking countries of Europe - we here in English-speaking Michigan would more than likely know each of these languages as well.
Makes sense, doesn't it?
(I wonder how many native Frenchmen can speak the language of a far more distant land than England, for instance, say, Russian or Chinese?)
Now, just to show you how so many college students are book-smart but lack common sense (or listen too much to our 'global society' anti-American media):
Why do nearly all of the Europe population learn and speak English? Well, let's face it, the greater majority of movies, TV shows, and popular music shown and played in those countries comes out of America and England. Not that they don't have their own, mind you. But, the English speaking entertainment is very popular in non-English-speaking countries. That's a fact. A humorous aside here: the Beatles, nearly 50 years ago, sang a couple of their most well-known tunes in German - I Want to Hold Your Hand and She Loves You - and yet it was the English versions that sold in far greater quantities to the Germans.
Now, I grew up with my Italian grandparents living with us and, because of that, I could understand and even speak (a little) Italian in my youth. Once my grandparents and that whole immigrant generation died out, much of the language was lost to the descendants. Why? Simple: no one to converse with.
But, my grandparents also felt that they were living in America now and because this was their newly adopted land then they should speak English. Yes, they continued speaking in Italian as well, but they had no problem conversing with srore owners, etc., in English.
And, to me, that's as it should be...when in Rome...
Do you want to learn a foreign language? Great!
But, please don't think that I am dumb or conceited because I have no desire to do the same.

1 comment:

Chandra said...

Here here! I am also sick of the "rude American" stereotype. I have never been treated as poorly as I was in the Tube stations in London. They bade New Yorkers look like angels.