Author Topic: Language and Asshattery  (Read 1125 times)

Cainad (dec.)

  • Houseplant Supreme
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 88771
  • Ejection Seat Party Hat Issuance Officer
    • View Profile
    • Internet Forum Safari
Language and Asshattery
« on: November 14, 2007, 03:47:58 am »
We all know that the number of Americans who speak a second language is pitifully low. The most common second language is Spanish, and that's only because we share a border and many, many citizens of ambiguous status with Mexico. Any foreign country that isn't Anglophone knows the first step in making money on the international scene is to learn English. The Francophone countries tend to be the most pissed about this, but they deal with it for the most part. Asian countries learn English like it was the recipe to turn lead into platinum; many of them will PAY native English speakers just to talk to students.

This is totally unfair. Obviously something needs to be done to make American citizens on the whole more multilingual, because this "Foreigners can learn to speak English or fuck off" attitude will probably bite us in the ass sometime in the future. There are probably a zillion psychological articles about how being bi- or multi-lingual makes people smarter, but it may well be that the simple act of talking to someone in their native language will improve their opinion of Americans just a little bit.

So this is what should be done: the USA should massively boost incentives to learn other languages, and make sure that education is available to make American citizens fluent in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Farsi, Swahili, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai...










...this isn't working.

Nast

  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 22594
  • Impartial Biscuit Game Referee
    • View Profile
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2007, 04:47:05 am »
Or just get yourself to learn a language.
I'm actually glad that the government doesn't require any foreign languages to be learned. Considering how poorly the government works in general, I personally don't want interfering with my life more than "necessary".

I love languages. Since I live in Southern California, learning Spanish is both practical and fun. However, it isn't necessary. Practically all hispanophones I've met speak English to an extent. I also think that part of the problem is, as you said, Americans being so comfortable in their americentric lives that they don't really care or even think about those damn dirty foreigners. I don't think that motivating yourself to learn a language is something the government can do.
Actually, a practical language for Americans to learn would be Chinese. Considering massive economic interaction we have with China, as well as China's growth into a very modern nation, and its population, it would probably help.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2007, 04:50:28 am by Pope Naughty Nasturtiums »
It's probably just a phase.

Your Mom

  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 606765
  • v=1/3πr2h
    • View Profile
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2007, 04:50:53 am »
Some of the local schools have a Spanish room that does immersion teaching for all kids 3rd grade and up. I'd love to see the younger classes in there too, but I understand that budget restrictions make language not the highest priority.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

Cain

  • Vanguard of your destruction
  • Chekha
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 97819
    • View Profile
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2007, 09:09:08 am »
Cantonese and Mandarin, Castillian Spanish, Russian and Arabic are the most useful languages to learn, aside from English.

Which is why if you live in the UK, you get a choice between French and German.  Admittedly, French is useful for parts of Africa, but German is useless once you find your way out of central Europe.
"The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before? Only the Logos allows one to mitigate that slavery. Only knowing the sources of thought and action allows us to own our thoughts and our actions, to throw off the yoke of circumstance."
- R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before

LMNO, PhD (life continues)

  • Internet Fuckweasel of Haunted Pork Dimensions.
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 82477
  • Internet Fuckweasel of Haunted Pork Dimensions.
    • View Profile
    • Earfatigue Productions: When it has to sound like you give a shit.
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2007, 01:17:56 pm »
Eh, I'm not gonna worry about it too much.


When it comes time to adapt or die, Americans will either adapt, or...
LMNO
Pope/Wrought Iron Instigator
First Church of Last Exit Before Toll
The Spider Project.

Buy the Chao te Ching, or be doomed forever.

http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/marburger/index.shtml

"Get offa me, you freaks!  This is not North Korea.  No.  This is America, and I expect to be PAID for that sort of nonsense.  In advance.  No credit...Cash on the barrelhead or GTFO.  I swear to God, there's nothing more annoying than commie perverts who don't understand the intrinsic value of the free market system."

AFK

  • We all
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 73111
    • View Profile
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2007, 01:43:53 pm »
This might work in urban settings but how are you going to get this done in rural America?  School Districts will not be able to afford all of the teachers necessary to teach all of these languages.  Growing up close to the Quebec border, it made the most sense for my school to offer French, there was little need, in that area, for knowledge of any other language.

Indeed, when you plan to grow up, live, and die in small town America, why the hell would you want to know how to speak German? 

Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a bad idea for Americans to be multilingual, but I'm looking at this from a practical and implementation perspective and I don't see how you would do it. 
Cynicism is a blank check for failure.

LMNO, PhD (life continues)

  • Internet Fuckweasel of Haunted Pork Dimensions.
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 82477
  • Internet Fuckweasel of Haunted Pork Dimensions.
    • View Profile
    • Earfatigue Productions: When it has to sound like you give a shit.
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2007, 01:50:48 pm »
It makes sense why europeans are so multilingual:  you can go to 8 different countries in a week, just driving in a straight line.

In the US, you can drive for a week and only hear regional dialects of english.  The most you could probably get is 3 languages: Canukistanian, English, and Spanish, and only if you started in quebec and ended in mexico.

That's not excuse for ignorance, but it is a reason for it.
LMNO
Pope/Wrought Iron Instigator
First Church of Last Exit Before Toll
The Spider Project.

Buy the Chao te Ching, or be doomed forever.

http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/marburger/index.shtml

"Get offa me, you freaks!  This is not North Korea.  No.  This is America, and I expect to be PAID for that sort of nonsense.  In advance.  No credit...Cash on the barrelhead or GTFO.  I swear to God, there's nothing more annoying than commie perverts who don't understand the intrinsic value of the free market system."

AFK

  • We all
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 73111
    • View Profile
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2007, 02:03:44 pm »
While you may not be able to literally teach kids all sorts of new languages, you can inspire them in other ways.  Inspiring them to want to explore their world beyond their front door, and the town they live in.  One side affect of this could be kids wanting to learn new languages, to travel, and to see more of what's out there.

My brother is a good example.  He had an urge to learn about Asian culture.  So, he got some books, found some sources on the internet and learned Korean and Japanese.  He's not 100% fluent, but he knew enough Korean to carry on basic conversations when he went to South Korea this summer. 

Cynicism is a blank check for failure.

Triple Zero

  • DO NOT ABUSE EXCEPT FOR URGENT FURNITURE MOVING EMERGENCIES
  • One-Armed Jizz Moppers
  • Deserved It
  • **
  • Posts: 80835
  • Horrible and Sexy Queen of Cheese
    • View Profile
    • Random BIP
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2007, 02:47:22 pm »
you're american, right, Cainad?

i got a few things to say about this .. first, if you wanna learn Dutch, don't come to the Netherlands :) at the first hints of you having trouble with the language most dutch (especially the younger generation) will switch to english at the blink of an eye (and sometimes speak it better than some americans ;-) ), and you have to beg them for the patience to speak Dutch again :)

we learn a littlebit of english at elementary school (around ages 9-11), then in high school (ages 12-18) french and german gets added to that.

english is not necessarily only useful to speak with americans or english, but it also serves very well as a "shared language" to converse with people in all those other countries (failing that, add a bit of German in the mix and you're set). i've been to a lot of international (mostly european/scandinavian) symposia and meetings, and english is simply the default language in those places. so much, that often only after a few minutes people realize there's only dutch left in the group and can switch to their native language :)

i know some people in Brussels (working for the EU) who raise their kids speaking two or three languages (french/german/spanish, mostly) because at that age it's very easy for a kid to pick up languages and they become multi-lingual. it also helps that most marriages in among EU-personal are international already :) any reports on those kids ending up confused and not even speaking one of the languages really well, are bullshit as far as my experiences go.

it helps that, in europe, there are only a few "obvious" choices for extra languages to learn: english, german and french. that may be the problem in america, you name a whole list of languages, but as you already say, in america spanish is the only genuinely useful one at that. in order to keep your language fresh, you need to be able to use it every once in a while.

Cain wrote:
> but German is useless once you find your way out of central Europe.

's funny cause in my highschool they taught us how *many* people *all over the world* speak German. kinda bullshit of course, but they wanted to motivate us to "why is this useful" :)

LMNO wrote:
> It makes sense why europeans are so multilingual:  you can go to 8 different countries in a week, just driving in a
> straight line.

ok, first off, you need to understand, europeans generally don't really do this very often. maybe once a year on vacation, but for example the Dutch generally just drive to France (dutch, dutch/flamish, belgian-french, french), or simply take the plane to some warm holiday-destination (where they speak Dutch, German or English, generally, because of tourism).
it's a bit of a cultural difference between the US and Europe, i think, you tend to think of a day or two worth driving as a lot less big deal than Europeans do. hence my continual surprise at americans coming to europe, staying in Amsterdam and making roadtrips to Paris, Prague, Venice, etc. (sure, can't blame em, you came all the way to Europe and of course you wanna see most of it, but still :) )

second, the actual reason why we are so multilingual is TV. this is how i learned english. you learn to read Dutch and watch American and English shows and movies with Dutch subtitling. do that a few hours a day when you're a young kid and you automatically pick up the language. [interesting side-note: in India, they are starting programs of "same-language subtitling", Indian shows with Indian subtitles, in order to improve literacy]. when i was taught english in school i thought "this is stupid i already know this", in fact one of my highschool teachers thought i was in fact very dumb because i couldn't bring myself to answer his "dumb" questions like "what day is today?" with serious answers so i tried to be funny and came up with nonsensical shit like "a bike" :)
i kinda wish i watched more German shows when i was young, though.
Ex-Soviet Bloc Sexual Attack Swede of Tomorrow™
e-prime disclaimer: let it seem fairly unclear I understand the apparent subjectivity of the above statements. maybe.

INFORMATION SO POWERFUL, YOU ACTUALLY NEED LESS.

Cain

  • Vanguard of your destruction
  • Chekha
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 97819
    • View Profile
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2007, 02:52:53 pm »
Yeah, I was taught "many people around the world" speak German as well.  What they didn't mention was they were all international finance traders who did work in Frankfurt on the Stock Exchange.

And yes, English is the international lingua franca, as it were.  America is a huge market, throw in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Ireland and the UK (all of which have first world economies), and the UK being in the EU (saves on translation costs) and you can see why its used.  Hell, for the past 50 years, international trade has either been concentrated at London or New York, people the world over are going to learn for those reasons alone.
"The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before? Only the Logos allows one to mitigate that slavery. Only knowing the sources of thought and action allows us to own our thoughts and our actions, to throw off the yoke of circumstance."
- R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before

LMNO, PhD (life continues)

  • Internet Fuckweasel of Haunted Pork Dimensions.
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 82477
  • Internet Fuckweasel of Haunted Pork Dimensions.
    • View Profile
    • Earfatigue Productions: When it has to sound like you give a shit.
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2007, 03:04:43 pm »
I heard a theory once that English is so popular because its the perfect language for business and politics becuase it's so slippery you can make anything mean anything else.


Thoughts?
LMNO
Pope/Wrought Iron Instigator
First Church of Last Exit Before Toll
The Spider Project.

Buy the Chao te Ching, or be doomed forever.

http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/marburger/index.shtml

"Get offa me, you freaks!  This is not North Korea.  No.  This is America, and I expect to be PAID for that sort of nonsense.  In advance.  No credit...Cash on the barrelhead or GTFO.  I swear to God, there's nothing more annoying than commie perverts who don't understand the intrinsic value of the free market system."

Triple Zero

  • DO NOT ABUSE EXCEPT FOR URGENT FURNITURE MOVING EMERGENCIES
  • One-Armed Jizz Moppers
  • Deserved It
  • **
  • Posts: 80835
  • Horrible and Sexy Queen of Cheese
    • View Profile
    • Random BIP
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2007, 03:21:20 pm »
i think it's just a coincidence. it's not a particularly "good" language, but also not particularly "bad".

also, you can be perfectly ambiguous in Dutch or German as well, just sometimes in different ways than you can be in English (hence that my "s-jokes" never seem to work here :-P). for example in German (and to a lesser extent in Dutch), you have the explicit cases, where word-endings give away the function or intent of certain nouns. in English the case of a word is just determined by its position relative to the verb, which does indeed allow for certain kinds of ambiguities. but other languages have other ways of shadowing their intent, and none is perfect.

i just happen to have been reading Steven Pinkner's "The Language Instinct" the past week, so this language/grammar stuff is fresh in my mind :)

he cites a quote by Reagan quite often: "Mistakes were made"
indeed in certain languages (not sure if this is the case in German--the cases are one of the hardest things to get right for a Dutch to learn German) the case-ending of the word "Mistakes" would give away whether they were made by the speaker himself, a singular other party, a plural other party, some other undefined party and what-have-you-not, depending on the richness of the cases in that language. sometimes even if it was on purpose, benefactory, or not, etc etc. language is a pretty funky thing :)
Ex-Soviet Bloc Sexual Attack Swede of Tomorrow™
e-prime disclaimer: let it seem fairly unclear I understand the apparent subjectivity of the above statements. maybe.

INFORMATION SO POWERFUL, YOU ACTUALLY NEED LESS.

Cain

  • Vanguard of your destruction
  • Chekha
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 97819
    • View Profile
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2007, 03:38:12 pm »
Economic reasons overrule pragmatic/deceptive ones too, I would say.  When the Normans came to the UK, they were the primary economic force, hence the adoption of French among the upper and middle classes (ie, the economically productive ones).  The spread of Arabic beyond the confines of the Caliphate and the ascensiion of English today are for the same reasons.  Remember also, the majority of media is produced within the United States too.  News, movies, music...with the spread of the 24 hour cable channels pioneered in the USA and its overall strength in creating a common experience for people are also reasons.
"The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before? Only the Logos allows one to mitigate that slavery. Only knowing the sources of thought and action allows us to own our thoughts and our actions, to throw off the yoke of circumstance."
- R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before

Bebek Sincap Ratatosk

  • Probably
  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 8967
    • View Profile
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2007, 03:40:47 pm »
I think that if a person plans on anything more than a quick vacation to a foreign country, they should pick up the language (or at least try to). It's respectful in some sense and its an example of personal responsibility. However, most Americans that I know have never been out of the country, except for quick vacations... In the area I live in, there's no real need to speak any other language... with the exception of Spanish.

And that brings me to another point. I don't give a fuck if you're legal or illegal, if you are going to live in a country learn the fucking language, or don't get a job where you have to communicate with anyone. Example, Wendy's drive through in Columbus Ohio... this is a place for people that can speak English. The damned speaker board is difficult enough to translate into useful data without some sad imitation of a Faulty Towers scene "I'd like a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger" ... "Que?"

Example two: Large retail corporation hires holiday help. They interview hundreds of applicants and hire bunches of people (most of them immigrants). When the work force shows up, suddenly 50% of them can't speak English and can't read English which is necessary to operate the computer based warehouse systems. How did HR miss this? Well, they didn't. The people they interviewed could speak and read English. The people who showed up to work... were not the same people interviewed. The company is currently interviewing a whole new batch of employees, putting them three weeks behind for their holiday business.

In those instances, I have no problem having an expectation that the people speak the language of the country that they are in (be it english or whatever).
- I don't see race. I just see cars going around in a circle.

"Back in my day, crazy meant something. Now everyone is crazy" - Charlie Manson

Your Mom

  • Deserved It
  • ****
  • Posts: 606765
  • v=1/3πr2h
    • View Profile
Re: Language and Asshattery
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2007, 04:17:34 pm »
Some of the many reasons I think Spanish should be taught as a second language in schools (were there no budget constraints):

1. It's an easy language for English-speakers to learn
2. It's already pretty ubiquitous in the US, so almost everyone would have the opportunity to stay fluent in it past high school
3. Learning a second language while young makes it easier to learn additional languages later on
4. Learning a second language while young appears to make kids smarter... at least, that's what "they" say.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku