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Old 02-20-2012, 06:42 AM
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,544 posts, read 56,060,466 times
Reputation: 11862


I read in another thread, I forget which, about Europeans criticizing Americans for only speaking English. Firstly, most Americans never even leave the US so why would they? So there are a lot of Spanish speakers coming...well it is THEY who should learn English, not the other way around. I'm Australian, and in a similar situation. No I don't look down on other languages or think English is the greatest language in the world. I will only learn another language if I have need to: i.e. if I live in that country. Before I travel I generally try to learn a few phrases/words, but that's about it. Some enjoy learning languages, but for me it's strictly practical. No point learning a language if it's of no practical use and you don't use it.

Just because of how I look, many in both Asia and here assume that I should be able to speak one of a number of other languages. Many appear shocked when I tell them that I can only speak English. I get the distinct impression they feel I ought to know Mandarin or whatever. One American bloke, half Taiwanese, said I was the first Asian he'd met who couldn't speak another language, making me feel a bit inadequate. But both my parents spoke English, and I'm Aussie born and bred (well not born but I came here when I was a year old an annoying technicality to explain). I certainly don't look down on other cultures, of course, and might one day learn another language (at this stage Japanese and Spanish). In fact I did take Japanese in school but scarcely remember more than a dozen phrases/words.

Anyway, I'm wondering if you've encountered this attitude, especially if you have non 'Anglo' roots...it seems the majority of Europeans and many Asians speak more than one language.
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:34 AM
Location: Gatineau, Québec
26,882 posts, read 38,032,223 times
Reputation: 11650
I am a "non-anglo", and English is not my first language, although I can speak and write English like a native speaker. I also can speak a third language fairly fluently, and smidgens of two more.

To answer the question directly, I am not sure that the correct term is looking down upon people who are English only speakers, but it is difficult to not perceive large-scale monolingualism as a generalized lack of curiosity about other cultures.

And I am not sure that I buy the story about having no use for other languages, since there are millions of people out there who have little practical use for second languages (including English believe it or not) in their lives but who learn them anyway for various reasons.

I live in Quebec, Canada, on the border with Ontario. French is useful where I live, and so is English. I can also speak pretty decent Spanish. Now, I do not holiday in Cuba or Dominican Republic or Mexico (never have) and I have no one in my friends or family who is a native Spanish speaker. So, in theory, Spanish could be said to be as useless to me as a second language is to the average American or Australia. Yet, I learned it anyway.

So "we only know English because, unlike you guys, other languages are useless to us" sounds more like a self-fulfilling prophecy than anything remotely factual.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:35 PM
Location: Victoria TX
42,554 posts, read 86,977,099 times
Reputation: 36644
I look down on monolingual speakers, even though I am one of them. I can handle a few other languages, but with great difficulty. I look down on people who say they don't need to be and don't want to be bilingual, but if a person is not bilingual, it is usually not his fault unless he refuses to learn another language.

I'm ashamed of the public education system in the USA which doesn't just fail to teach a second language, it refuses to teach a second language, and in some school districts, it even punishes students for speaking a second language inside the school building.

American schools wait until a child is too old to easily become bilingual, and then teaches them to conjugate verbs without acquiring any conversational use of a second language. I will never forgive my school for doing that, thus handicapping me for life as surely as if they had cut my arm off.
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:08 PM
26,787 posts, read 22,549,184 times
Reputation: 10038
I am not sure why people have to be bi-lingual at the first place, as much as I don't understand why everyone should be interested in different cultures up to a point that a person has to learn foreign language on proficient level ( in my understanding the ability to speak foreign language requires a proficient level.)
Not all people are cut for it ( not everyone is cut for math either for example,) and their area of interest may lie somewhere other than in studying "cultural differences."
I mean being introduced to a concept of foreign language is nice and serves as general development area ( and it's done in schools,) but beyond that?
It requires abilities/interest or involves a necessity the way I see it.

Last edited by erasure; 02-20-2012 at 02:00 PM..
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:14 PM
Location: New Albany, IN
830 posts, read 1,666,503 times
Reputation: 1150
I don't look down on monolingual speakers. I speak Spanish and English. I've tried to learn others including Portuguese and Korean, but I don't plan on returning to Portugal or South Korea even after the lovely times and friends I've had in those places. In fact if it weren't for the coincidence that most guys I dated, including my husband, spoke Spanish, my skill in that language would now be almost as low as the other ones. Many, many people in my generation and my parents generation had to take Spanish or French classes in school (most in high school, some in middle school as well) and now they say they can't remember it. Well, if they don't have to use the language and didn't really want to learn it in the first place, no surprise there. I'm not saying it's a total waste of time to take foreign language classes because it helps for learning better vocabulary and grammar in English. I just turned out to be one of the lucky ones who took a liking to learning Spanish.

My husband speaks five languages but his country's background is quite different from the USA. Anyone with any kind of formal education learns Arabic (official) and French (colonial/"co-official"), and depending on ethinicity or region one may also speak a native language. PLUS many people try to go to Europe or the USA for work, so they might try to learn one or two more languages, usually English, Spanish or German. It's different but I don't think it's better or worse. I couldn't imagine living like that though, after growing up with English for family, school, work, media, government, etc.
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:51 PM
Location: Leeds, UK
22,112 posts, read 29,585,134 times
Reputation: 8819
It's quite simple, if people have no reason to learn a foreign language, then they won't. English is widely spoken all over the world but languages like Dutch, Swedish and Danish are not.

I only know a bit of Spanish and Swedish, but I'm slowly getting better.

French is quite widely spoken in the UK, 20-49% of the UK know French, similar to Netherlands, Germany etc. It's the 'default language' of school, when you reach year 9 you can change languages, but I know many adults who can speak French, including my mother and sister.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:28 PM
Location: Fishers, IN
6,485 posts, read 12,535,852 times
Reputation: 4126
Let's face it, for those of us who are native English speakers, it's easy to get by without learning another language because English has become the language of international business and diplomatic relations. And we're borderline arrogant about it.

I'm one who had a lot of exposure to German and took Spanish in school. But due to lack of use in everyday life, I couldn't carry a conversation in either. But studying those languages did help me understand English better, so I think that angle gets lost on those who are resistent to attempting other languages.
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:08 PM
Location: The Netherlands
282 posts, read 962,648 times
Reputation: 433
I just look down on people who don't learn a language even though it could actually really benefit them. I mean mainly the people who live in a foreign country for years and never learn the language, or people who can't speak English and need help all the time translating stuff, since everything is in English.
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:42 PM
Location: Cambridge, MA/London, UK
3,867 posts, read 5,291,536 times
Reputation: 3368
I am a native English speaker, but also speak and write Spanish fluently. Also I do know a dialect (Jamaican Patois) which could very well be a language in the near future if the current movement in Jamaica gains any traction to designate it a language similar to Haitian Creole.

Personally I do not look down on monolingual speakers because I look at my own personal situation and see that one of the major reasons why I speak another language fluently is because I was exposed to it from a young age.

My Grandmother was a Jamaican that grew up in Panama and my mother also speaks Spanish fluently, so we were exposed to Spanish as a family our entire lives. I do have to ask myself if I wasn't would I really speak the language as well as I do today? The answer could very well be no.

Now I do not have any patience for people who spend a significant amount of time in another country and make no effort whatsoever to learn the language, at least at a basic level.
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Old 02-20-2012, 08:19 PM
Location: Gatineau, Québec
26,882 posts, read 38,032,223 times
Reputation: 11650
Originally Posted by dunno what to put here View Post
French is quite widely spoken in the UK, 20-49% of the UK know French, similar to Netherlands, Germany etc. .
This sounds pretty high.
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