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Cultural Heritage
Posted November 21st, 2012 - 3:45 pm by from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (Permalink)
Interesting conversation this morning with my friend Mike, who owns a cafe on Jackson Street in Harlingen. A young couple came in and started ordering breakfast in Spanish. Mike cut them off mid-sentence, saying that he does not speak Spanish. They probably would have left in frustration if I had not intervened to translate.

While Mike was preparing their breakfast, I joined him in the kitchen and asked, "Mike, don't you think you would make more money here if you learned Spanish?"

"Phil, making money has never been the most important thing in my life."

"I know, and it is one of the things I respect about you. Let me rephrase. How do you justify not learning Spanish when the majority of people here are Spanish speakers and always have been?

"Phil, I respect you as well, but I disagree with your version of history. Spanish was not spoken in this area until the conquistadors began arriving in the 1500s. And very few people lived in the Rio Grande Valley when it was Spanish territory. Very few people lived here when it was Mexican territory. After it became United States territory, my ancestors dug canals off the Rio Grande to irrigate the crops. The Latinos, as you call them, came later to work in the fields, but there would never have been work for them here without the work of my ancestors.

As far as language, I speak the language of my ancestors, the same as that couple sitting out there. I have a right to preserve my cultural heritage and so do they. And there are a dozen other places to eat on this street where they can order in Spanish with no problem."

"Mike, I appreciate your sharing your perspective on this."

I really didn't know what else to say. Mike is a great guy and we have been friends for years. Sometimes even the best of friends can disagree on some of the most important issues of the day.

Posted November 21st, 2012 - 10:12 pm from Portland, United States
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Posted November 22nd, 2012 - 5:26 am from Sydney, Australia
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Posted November 23rd, 2012 - 11:25 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted November 23rd, 2012 - 11:37 am from Thornbury, England
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Posted November 23rd, 2012 - 11:45 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted November 23rd, 2012 - 9:54 pm from Invercargill, New Zealand
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Posted November 23rd, 2012 - 11:43 pm from Tourlaville, France
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Posted November 24th, 2012 - 1:37 am from Seattle, United States
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Posted November 25th, 2012 - 3:11 am by from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (Permalink)
I have given this some further thought since originally posting this and have had many conversations about it, north and south of the Rio Grande (I am in Mexico now, on my way back to Guatemala), with native English speakers, and with native Spanish speakers. Since first beginning to learn Spanish at age 14, and being really interested in improving it, I have lived between the two camps. I am the opposite of my friend Mike. I really go out of my way to learn and speak Spanish when I can. But I grew up in St. Louis (Missouri, USA), where almost everyone speaks English. I think Mike's siege mentality comes from living a five-minute drive from a country with completely different norms, and feeling like his culture is in danger of being blotted out.

I am all for preserving one's cultural heritage. I am also a pragmatist who believes in learning a second or third language, either for traveling or because a large number of people in my area speak it. I think Americans who travel or live in Mexico or Central America should learn Spanish. Despite the protests of people who claim to advocate for immigrants, I think Latinos who travel or live in the USA should learn English, especially if they want to do paid work. I don't think I will ever get Mike's attitude of "My ancestors did X, therefore I and my descendants will always do X." My mother was born in France and that was the only language she spoke until age nine. If she had Mike's attitude, I would speak more French now than English. I regret that she did not teach my some French when I was a child. I appreciate that she taught me English.


Posted November 25th, 2012 - 4:19 am by from Daylesford, Australia (Permalink)
well

visiting germany, they consider me 'laid back australian' and say i smile, widely, all the time and 'sing' when i speak.

back home in oz they consider me 'efficient german' and think my speech is funny viss sat aksent. some say sexy, over the phone.

what to do? i just laugh and feed them kartoffelsalat (potato salad) with their kangaroo schnitzels, and all's well.

skip skip, hurrah!

roo:>)


Posted November 25th, 2012 - 5:49 am from Seattle, United States
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Posted November 25th, 2012 - 7:08 am by from Daylesford, Australia (Permalink)
you and i, dear nordic, could do a stand-up comedy routine, vis our akzents, one day...

:>) roo

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Posted November 25th, 2012 - 3:57 pm by from Ottawa, Canada (Permalink)
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Posted November 25th, 2012 - 9:25 pm from Sydney, Australia
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Posted December 3rd, 2012 - 9:52 am by from Quimper, France (Permalink)
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Posted November 26th, 2012 - 5:55 pm from Charlotte, United States
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Posted November 27th, 2012 - 2:14 pm from Sydney, Australia
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Posted November 27th, 2012 - 4:07 pm from Luebeck, Germany
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Posted November 27th, 2012 - 10:14 pm from Sydney, Australia
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Posted November 27th, 2012 - 10:52 pm from Invercargill, New Zealand
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 4:06 pm from Luebeck, Germany
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 5:14 pm from Camden, United States
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 4:09 pm from Luebeck, Germany
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 4:18 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 4:34 pm from Luebeck, Germany
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 4:59 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 5:25 pm from Camden, United States
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 5:30 pm from Luebeck, Germany
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 12:31 am from Luebeck, Germany
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 1:12 am by from Daylesford, Australia (Permalink)
here we go, dear george and micha:
'show off' is not an 'unkind' remark, our gracious david up there in sydney would not do such a thing.
it is, rather, an indulgent little tick-off, laced with admiration.
a parent would say it, for example, to a clever child that does an impromptu tapdance, in front of visitors...

let me try this in german:

'show off' ist nicht wirklich eine 'un-nette' bemerkung. unser hoeflicher david, da oben in sydney, tut so etwas nicht.
es ist mehr ein kleiner, liebevoller rueffel, mit halb-verborgenem stolz ausgesprochen.
'du kleiner angeber' waere wohl die beste uebersetzung.
mamma wuerde so etwas sagen, zu einem talentierten kind, das ploetzlich einen flotten stepptanz hinlegt, wenn besuch da ist...

it is interesting, but not surprising that we have so many multilingual csers here. mostly among those, whose first language is not english.
i was brought up in germany, speaking french to grandmere, deutsch with mutti and american english with daddy and friends. bavarian as well, when playing in the lanes, with my local friends.

it is good and commendable to speak and keep up various languages. let's keep showing off!

:>) roo


Posted November 30th, 2012 - 1:30 am from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 6:15 am from Mumbai, India
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 6:26 am from Portland, United States
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 12:46 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
Cadence,
This is wonderful!
Karen

Posted November 30th, 2012 - 10:21 pm from Sydney, Australia
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 12:48 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
thanks, catface, for these insights
karen

Posted November 30th, 2012 - 1:12 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
George,

Même avec un clavier anglais, si on écrit en utilisant Word, on peut créer pas mal d'accents. Si tu ne les as pas, je peux t'envoyer une fiche avec les formulaires nécéssaires.

Je dois avouer que, pas mal de temps, je suis trop paresseuse, et moi aussi, j'écrit sans accents...

Karen

Posted November 30th, 2012 - 3:04 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 3:52 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
Mais, George, tu habites le Canada! Comment est-ce que tu me vouvoies? L'été passé, à Montréal, j'ai eu mal à m'habituer à ça, mais maintenant que j'arrive à le faire, voilà qu'un Canadien me vouvoie! Et à l'internet, où même les (ou quelques) français m'ont assuré que ça se fait!

J'espère que tu ne me trouve pas trop impolie (bien qu'en même temps que je continue de te tutoyer...)!

(J'ai toujours eu des difficultés avec le choix entre tu et vous.)

Karen

Posted November 30th, 2012 - 5:42 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 6:08 pm from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 11:03 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
et en grecque, aussi

Mais: l'usage n'est souvent pas semblable

Par exemple: Il y avait un clip sur euronews.com quand Obama a nommé Clinton comme Secretary of State. Elle a utilisé le mot "you" en anglais, qui a été traduit comme "vous" en français mais comme "tu" en espagnol. J'ai posé la question dans le forum français-espagnol de wordreference.com si cela marquait une difference dans leur manière de presenter les deux personnages. Les français ont été choqué de savoir qu'on pourrait très bien utiliser "tu" dans un tel contexte en espagnol sans manque de respect.

Et, bien sûr, le fait qu'au Québec les gens se tutoient presque sans hesitation n'est pas comme en France (même si ça se fait plus facilement ces jours-ci qu'autrefois)

Karen

Posted November 30th, 2012 - 11:42 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted December 3rd, 2012 - 10:20 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted November 27th, 2012 - 11:32 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
I don't know if this article, compiled and edited by me from professional discussions that took place in 2001, might interest you:

The Role of English Language Teaching: Linguistic Imperialism or Linguistic Empowerment?

http://tesl-ej.org/ej21/f1.html

Posted November 28th, 2012 - 12:38 am from Camden, United States
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Posted December 11th, 2012 - 6:41 am by from Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Permalink)
@Karen,
I've posted your "The Role of English Language Teaching: Linguistic Imperialism or Linguistic Empowerment"? at my paper:
http://www.scoop.it/t/ict-lingua-franca-soft-skills-developing
Halima

Posted November 28th, 2012 - 10:21 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
As well as English, my L1, I speak fluent French, relatively fluent Spanish, and *some* modern Greek (although 30 years of lack of use has depleted that ability markedly).

Still, when the train I was on from Hannover to Bale was late, and I was going to miss my connection to Geneva, I worried about the fact that I had a ticket that was ONLY good for those particular trains. The conductor spoke no language but German. The only one of my languages spoken by any train employee was English.

So, imperialism or currently useful tool for communication among many varieties of people?

On another tack, when I was young, American English was not considered *real* English. On the world stage, AmE was a degenerate version of British English, and definitely not GOOD English. (Many people outside the US insisted on calling it "American" rather than "English.") I certainly did not appreciate this attitude!

So, how did the change in perspective evolve? Could American English have been considered a tool of imperialism when it was very low status relative to BE? Or doesn't that relationship matter in this discussion?

Posted November 28th, 2012 - 11:00 pm from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 6:05 am from Tulle, France
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 6:30 am from Invercargill, New Zealand
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 8:53 am by from Saint-Brieuc, France (Permalink)
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 8:56 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 12:40 pm from Tulle, France
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 4:04 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 4:21 pm from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 5:31 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
I think it is very important, when looking at progress in speaking a language after moving to a new country, to look at both the age and the language background of the person.

Research (see in particular studies by Kees de Bot) shows that, beginning at about the age of 35, the difficulty of learning a completely new language increases significantly. This is very different from refreshing knowledge previously acquired at a younger age, or in learning a language that shares many features (especially cognates) with a language you already know.

One possible hypothesis is that the ability to *memorize* changes in important ways. Certainly, I saw this in the difference between learning/studying/absorbing French at age 16 and modern Greek at age 30. At 30, acquiring vocabulary in particular required much much MUCH more concentrated effort than it did at 16...and I was someone who had developed many tools to help me with language acquisition. In addition, my ability to "pick up" language from my environment was much poorer at age 30 than it had been at age 16.

Of course, there will always be individual differences, and I don't mean that *everyone* necessarily makes an effort. However, I do not think you can equate an adult's proficiency in the language of the country with their efforts to acquire the language. Many times, people are making a real effort to improve their ability, but their progress may be much slower if they first began acquisition past a certain age.

Karen

Posted November 29th, 2012 - 5:44 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 6:11 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 6:08 pm from Luebeck, Germany
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Posted November 30th, 2012 - 12:42 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
My main use of Google translate has been with Facebook comments in other languages. From my experience and that of my English-speaking friends, it seems to work a bit better with Germanic or Romance languages, but we can often barely discern the thread of the discussion when it's used for English translations of Korean, Chinese, Japanese or Turkish. (Of course, there are many languages that we have no experience with.) It's also complicated by the fact that some people post comments on Facebook that incorporate the spelling you find in text messaging, something which the Google Translate system doesn't seem to handle.

Posted November 29th, 2012 - 8:05 pm from Charlotte, United States
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Posted December 7th, 2012 - 7:39 am from Tulle, France
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Posted December 7th, 2012 - 9:38 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted December 8th, 2012 - 9:07 pm by from Stoke-on-Trent, England (Permalink)
I think the animosity in France can cut two ways. Our French neighbours have a habit of referring to any English people as 'les anglais' - even when they have known them personally for a long time (i.e. years). I find this really rude.

While I agree with George about the anglicisation of some areas (Eymet comes to mind where even the shop signs etc are in English) there is a line between those trying to learn the language but struggling and those who simply don't bother.

Posted December 8th, 2012 - 10:17 pm from Camden, United States
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Posted December 11th, 2012 - 9:45 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted November 29th, 2012 - 4:14 pm from Luebeck, Germany
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Posted December 4th, 2012 - 8:49 am from Mumbai, India
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Posted December 4th, 2012 - 11:57 am from Invercargill, New Zealand
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Posted December 4th, 2012 - 3:37 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted December 5th, 2012 - 4:03 am from Mumbai, India
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Posted December 5th, 2012 - 7:11 am from Invercargill, New Zealand
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Posted December 5th, 2012 - 3:44 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted December 5th, 2012 - 3:45 pm from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted December 5th, 2012 - 8:37 pm by from Charlotte, United States (Permalink)
I think it should also be noted that we *notice* the people who *don't* make an effort to adapt and learn the language.

The ones who have made the effort blend in, and are *not noticed.*

To what extent might this greater visibility of the non-adapters affect the impression that all foreigners are that way?


Posted December 6th, 2012 - 10:37 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted December 6th, 2012 - 12:25 am from Seattle, United States
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Posted December 6th, 2012 - 4:33 am from Sydney, Australia
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Posted December 6th, 2012 - 7:21 pm from Invercargill, New Zealand
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Posted December 7th, 2012 - 12:31 am from Ottawa, Canada
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Posted December 11th, 2012 - 7:01 am by from Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Permalink)
hi @Marilyn,
what is your opinion on that:
Language nationalism.A Spanish own goal.
http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2012/12/language-nationalism?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/spanishowngoal
Halima

Posted December 11th, 2012 - 8:02 pm from Seattle, United States
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Posted December 12th, 2012 - 11:14 am from Sydney, Australia
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Posted December 12th, 2012 - 7:28 pm from Portland, United States
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Posted December 13th, 2012 - 11:13 am from Sydney, Australia
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Posted December 14th, 2012 - 8:17 pm from Stevensville, United States
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