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Old 03-12-2012, 08:24 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Say I wanted to live and work in Italy and wanted to learn the Italian language and communicate with the locals as much as possible. But I'm of Asian (or really non-Italian appearance, but especially non-European) appearance. Will most of the locals just assume I am a tourist, and be less likely to speak Italian to me? Obviously if I begin talking to them in fluent Italian, I assume most would realise I can speak it and converse with me instead of trying to say speak English to me. But what I'm asking is, if you're obviously 'foreign-looking' do people assume you can't speak the local language and try to either speak to you in English (if they know it) or just not speak to you at all (if they need to)?

I think in immigration nations it's different. In the US, Australia.etc, which are multicultural, it is assumed that most everyone who is here and who isn't a tourist can speak English. But what about non-English speaking nations? I wonder if say Tiger Beer can comment about Japanese attitudes to him being of European appearance. Do most Japanese people assume you can't speak Japanese well, or treat you as a Japanese person? (i.e. if they know you're an expat not a tourist, the attitude of 'he probably hasn't bothered to learn Japanese', or 'I'll assume he has learnt Japanese). I wonder if this varies from country to country. Obviously here, even if they don't know I'm Australian, people speak to me in English (with the rare exception, or if they are taking the ****) as Australians are often not the white stereotype, and newcomers generally have to be proficient in English. Obviously since things vary in other countries (Australia is an exception) things would be different. I realise some European nations might be becoming more like this, when they see say Turkish people who speak fluent German. I've just always wondered what the deal was in other countries regarding this.

The idea of living in Europe would be appealing, but I wouldn't want to be seen as a perpetual tourist. When I visit Asia sometimes people will speak to me in Asian languages assuming I understand. Even in Australia, though, I've had some older European people speak to me in their language, but I think it's more because they could barely speak English so they were just expressing themselves.
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Old 03-12-2012, 11:30 AM
 
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I think you are more sensitive to these things than an average person. Italy, for example, has not been isolated. It has seen all shades of skin, just like any other European country. Sure, a person (in any country) will not know what will come out of the mouth of an Asian-looking guy, but I am pretty sure people in this global world are prepared to hear anything - American English, Serbian-accented French, Lithuanian Italian, etc. The same way I look at a white person and don't know what will come out of his mouth: Celtic? Australian English that I don't understand? German? Thai because he's learning it?

But that's why the general understanding is that there is a transitional buffer of apprehension, - until the Italian hears "Sto imparando l'italiano" from this Asian, there is no groping in the dark anymore.
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Old 03-12-2012, 12:48 PM
 
Location: Gatineau, Québec
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I don't think an Asian-looking person who can speak Italian would be that much of an oddity these days in Italy. At least not in the larger cities.

If you are in a highly-touristed area you might get people addressing you in English but most people don't live in tourist districts.

I would say most people in most countries these days will speak to everyone in the "national" or local language first, regardless of what they look like. Only a minority try to be "excessively welcoming" and use another language in an attempt to "guess" that you actually speak it.

The reason being is that a lot of people get offended when you do this, especially if they are local residents but of a racial minority. If you speak to them in the non-local language, it's as if you are telling/reminding them that they do not belong there.
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Old 03-12-2012, 07:33 PM
 
Location: Macao
16,257 posts, read 43,168,834 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
Say I wanted to live and work in Italy and wanted to learn the Italian language and communicate with the locals as much as possible. But I'm of Asian (or really non-Italian appearance, but especially non-European) appearance. Will most of the locals just assume I am a tourist, and be less likely to speak Italian to me? Obviously if I begin talking to them in fluent Italian, I assume most would realise I can speak it and converse with me instead of trying to say speak English to me. But what I'm asking is, if you're obviously 'foreign-looking' do people assume you can't speak the local language and try to either speak to you in English (if they know it) or just not speak to you at all (if they need to)?

I think in immigration nations it's different. In the US, Australia.etc, which are multicultural, it is assumed that most everyone who is here and who isn't a tourist can speak English. But what about non-English speaking nations? I wonder if say Tiger Beer can comment about Japanese attitudes to him being of European appearance. Do most Japanese people assume you can't speak Japanese well, or treat you as a Japanese person? (i.e. if they know you're an expat not a tourist, the attitude of 'he probably hasn't bothered to learn Japanese', or 'I'll assume he has learnt Japanese). I wonder if this varies from country to country. Obviously here, even if they don't know I'm Australian, people speak to me in English (with the rare exception, or if they are taking the ****) as Australians are often not the white stereotype, and newcomers generally have to be proficient in English. Obviously since things vary in other countries (Australia is an exception) things would be different. I realise some European nations might be becoming more like this, when they see say Turkish people who speak fluent German. I've just always wondered what the deal was in other countries regarding this.

The idea of living in Europe would be appealing, but I wouldn't want to be seen as a perpetual tourist. When I visit Asia sometimes people will speak to me in Asian languages assuming I understand. Even in Australia, though, I've had some older European people speak to me in their language, but I think it's more because they could barely speak English so they were just expressing themselves.
It varies significantly depending on the country and it's inhabitants.

I lived in South Korea for about 7 years before moving to Japan. In South Korea, they assume EVERY white face only knows English. I have many friends who are fluent in Korean, but Koreans always expected English from their mouths. If you speak to Koreans in Korean, they'll almost always speak back in English, often apologizing that their English isn't so good, in English.

On the other hand, Korean-Americans who didn't know Korean, were expected to know 100% Korean at all times. In short, Koreans, expect only English from any white face (even if they are Russian, Spanish, whatever), and only Korean from any korean-looking face.

Koreans ALWAYS treated me as a perpetual tourist. Even with years there, people would ask if I've tried kimchi yet, or clap their hands in congratulations when they saw my chopsticks were proficient. People would always ask me 'when are you going home to your country?' when I had no intention or plan for that. I often got the 'Welcome to Korea' from strangers.

Fast-forward to JAPAN. In Japan, almost all Japanese will speak to me in Japanese about 95% of the time. For whatever reason, Japanese appear to be very familiar with caucasian-looking people being fluent in their language enough to understand. Maybe because of Japan's world status, they just assume you've done your homework and learned the language to live in Japan. (My Japanese isn't that good, so I just nod a lot).

Japanese never treat me as a tourist either. They are very unassuming. I've even had kids greet me with 'konichiwa' just like they would with anyone else. In contrast to Korea's constant jarring 'HELLO, WHERE YOU FROM?' which always gave me that, 'oh yeah, i'm a foreigner here' feeling. I never get that in Japan. Much more comfortable in Japan because of it.

Regarding ITALY. I don't know, but I also lived in South America and Spain. In both of those places, they always used their language, everytime. In South America, it was obvious I wasn't from around there. But they didn't know English enough to use English.

Back to Japan. I've oddly had the regular occurrence of Japanese people lost in the street, coming up to me and asking me for directions! They'll ask me in Japanese. They'll stand their waiting for me to give local directions in Japanese to them. So, I get the sense that in Japan, they just assume that if I'm not in a tourist area, that I'm probably a foreigner resident, who knows the local area and can give directions in Japanese. (That's something I would NEVER get in Korea - in Korea, if I even appeared to not know where I was going, someone would quickly come over, and ask 'can I help you? Where are you trying to go?).

In short, it's very unpredictable what the people of different countries might respond. Each country seems to be such a 'world of it's own' in it's thinking and approach towards obvious-looking foreigners. Italians are so well-known as talkative and socialable. I'd imagine if you lived there, they'd quickly identify you as the italian-speaking asian guy, and probably talk to you in italian everytime they saw you. But, I'm not really sure about that. The very little time I spent in Italy, the Italians just seemed very talkative. I think I remember them predomiately talking in Italian, and myself not knowing Italian, just hoping they wouldn't try to engage me in conversation. They are just 'out there' talkative. For example, even when there didn't appear to be a listener, they seemed to just be talking. Put a few Italians together at times, and they all seem to be talking at the same time. Just my guess, but they seem to be the kind of people that would talk to you in Italian regardless if you understood it or not. But, I don't know Italy very well outside of about 5 days total there.

Whereas I think if you were in Northern Europe, they'd probably only speak English to you, or not at all. Much more reserved, etc. Actually I just watched a Japanese TV show, where the Japanese reporter leaves his zipper down, and goes to 5 different countries, interviews 10 people in each country, and sees how many people tell him about his open fly. In Estonia, only 2 out of 10, and most of them laughed at him, or laughed behind is back, but most were not willing to tell him about the open fly. In Italy, 10 out of 10 told him almost the moment they saw the fly open. Relating it to speaking to a foreigner, I think Italians will just find out your Italian or lacking of Italian quickly, whereas a Northern European might be more reserved or assume you only know English, but wouldn't venture much past that to find out otherwise. But, that's just speculation.

Last edited by Tiger Beer; 03-12-2012 at 07:42 PM..
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Old 03-12-2012, 07:57 PM
 
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I was wondering the exact same thing, except about Spain because I'm going there this summer. I'm half Filipino, but I look more Latin American mestizo than anything, next would be Arab. I think I'm darker than most Spaniards, but I was wondering if people would still assume that I speak Spanish even though I look different. I'm hoping that people don't think I'm a tourist because I want to speak as little English as possible.
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:04 PM
 
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Interesting observations, Tiger Beer!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
Koreans ALWAYS treated me as a perpetual tourist. Even with years there, people would ask if I've tried kimchi yet, or clap their hands in congratulations when they saw my chopsticks were proficient. People would always ask me 'when are you going home to your country?' when I had no intention or plan for that. I often got the 'Welcome to Korea' from strangers.
I feel it here in Canada, of all places. It's not the race/skin color, people are pretty much color blind here. It's the moment they hear the whiff of an accent, the polite ritual starts: "Where are you from? How long have you been here?" Over the years, I noticed no matter what I answer - 16 days, a year, 10 years, 17 years - it always goes: "Do you like it here? Do you miss home? Have you been back home?" Never mind that in 17 years, THIS is my home, this is where my kids were born. I definitely don't feel myself a tourist, but unless I get rid of my accent, I will be a tourist till death.
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:05 PM
 
Location: Macao
16,257 posts, read 43,168,834 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smtchll View Post
I was wondering the exact same thing, except about Spain because I'm going there this summer. I'm half Filipino, but I look more Latin American mestizo than anything, next would be Arab. I think I'm darker than most Spaniards, but I was wondering if people would still assume that I speak Spanish even though I look different. I'm hoping that people don't think I'm a tourist because I want to speak as little English as possible.
Granted, this probably varies on where in Spain.

But I was in the Valencia area for six months, and most locals only spoke Spanish, few had the English abilities to converse in English.

Plus Spain has some Colombians, Dominicans, and other Latin American immigrants...so if you look a bit Latin American mestizo, they'll just assume you're Latin American.

Of course, that was just my experience in Valencia, maybe in a more international touristic area of Spain, they might use or know more English than Valencia.
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:07 PM
 
Location: Gatineau, Québec
26,874 posts, read 37,997,315 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smtchll View Post
I was wondering the exact same thing, except about Spain because I'm going there this summer. I'm half Filipino, but I look more Latin American mestizo than anything, next would be Arab. I think I'm darker than most Spaniards, but I was wondering if people would still assume that I speak Spanish even though I look different. I'm hoping that people don't think I'm a tourist because I want to speak as little English as possible.
Based on what you described, I'd say everyone in Spain will address you in Spanish.
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:29 PM
 
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Italy is still somewhat racist, but it will be much less of a problem up North and in big cities. It's not like Italians speak any language other than Italian anyway.
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:42 PM
 
3,635 posts, read 10,740,561 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
Granted, this probably varies on where in Spain.

But I was in the Valencia area for six months, and most locals only spoke Spanish, few had the English abilities to converse in English.

Plus Spain has some Colombians, Dominicans, and other Latin American immigrants...so if you look a bit Latin American mestizo, they'll just assume you're Latin American.

Of course, that was just my experience in Valencia, maybe in a more international touristic area of Spain, they might use or know more English than Valencia.
That's good to hear because I'm gonna be in Valencia for half of the time. The other half, I'm not sure yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Acajack View Post
Based on what you described, I'd say everyone in Spain will address you in Spanish.
Yeah I hope so. I'll have my tall American friend with me though. But to me he looks more Spanish than I do. He has dark hair and eyes, but lighter skin than mine.
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