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Old 03-21-2010, 10:58 AM   #21
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Sometimes it has nothing to do with language; rather than the "interpretation" of what is proper while traveling...

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Old 03-21-2010, 11:37 AM   #22
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Different languages are fun and interesting, and I'm all for cultural heritage...

However, it's a disgrace that humans can't come up with or decide on a single language to use on this planet.

Check out this instruction sheet for a bicycle cyclocomputer (speedometer):




There isn't room for good instructions, because they have to be printed in eleven different languages! Much of the information isn't even printed verbally, instead they have cryptic diagrams and drawings.

Also, the company had to pay to have all those translations done, and to have them printed.

I see this as silly. Perhaps English will become a default standard.
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Old 03-21-2010, 12:09 PM   #23
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The other side of us taking English for granted is that we expect, and sometimes demand, that foreign visitors to the US speak it perfectly. I'm embarrassed and mortified when someone here gets frustrated with a foreign traveler and blurts out "Speak F*%&ing English!".
Most traverlers to the US are pretty well to do, and speak English quite well. Sometimes better than US natives.

But immigrants are a different story. There are districts in my city and many others where English will get you nowhere. If you want to shop in any of the smaller stores you will need some language other than English.

There are people in our International District who are 80 years old and have been here many years who speak no English. I suppose public schools will take care of it for anyone who arrives still in early childhood, but even a teenager could survive quite well only on the immigrant economy of his group. However most of the younger people including teenagers learn English.

Ha
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Old 03-21-2010, 02:39 PM   #24
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IMHO very few foreigners can make themselves easily understood in English when they run into rude or impatient US/British nationals. Unless you are paying clients, that is: But then this happens everywhere, I guess.
Ten years ago I had a hard time asking my way around the Philadelphia airport. More than 25 years of reading, listening and speaking English were worth s**t....
Other than that, I had a nice ten day stay over there:
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- "We got our own language here"
Old 03-24-2010, 12:49 PM   #25
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- "We got our own language here"

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What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual

What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual

What do you call someone who only speaks one language? An American.
We non-brittish, non-americans, north-europeans often get confused with anglosaxians.

When in a southern european country, recently, I received an rude comment, in english. Bank-cassier. "you now.. WE GOT OUR OWN LANGUAGE HERE", "LEARN IT".

My answer: - So do I..

Heard stories about countrymens to me being assulted in the streets, when visiting a non-western country, because speaking brittish with american accent, then receiving an excuse. "sorry, whe thought you where americans"

English might be the lingua-franka of travellers... but also a burden.
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Old 03-24-2010, 08:20 PM   #26
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"If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it is good enough for me."

Classic.
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Old 03-25-2010, 07:04 AM   #27
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...
Heard stories about countrymens to me being assulted in the streets, when visiting a non-western country, because speaking brittish with american accent, then receiving an excuse. "sorry, whe thought you where americans"

English might be the lingua-franka of travellers... but also a burden.
I am from the USA and have been told several times by new friends met while traveling (generally at some local pub/tavern/bar/saloon) that I should claim to be Canadian to avoid this; but, I have never actually been hassled enough to try this.
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Old 03-25-2010, 11:06 AM   #28
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I've heard that a lot too (pretend to be anything but American, sew Canadian flag on your backpack, etc.) but I believe it's a lot more hype that reality.

Not saying there haven't been people who's gotten into drama because of an anti-American bias, just saying it seems way overstated and among best practices for not getting yourself into trouble when traveling your nationality is waaaay down the danger list compared to the obvious like not wandering back to hotel alone along dark street, not wearing lots of jewelry, not discussing politics when everyone is drinking a lot, etc.
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:40 PM   #29
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Check out this funny defense of Americans being uni-lingual: Structured Procrastination - On Becoming Bilingual
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:49 PM   #30
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With respect to "anti-Americanism" abroad, I personally haven't experienced it. Most of the people I've met abroad are delighted to talk about their trips to NY, or their nephew who's going to school in North Carolina, or any number of other things. Rarely, if ever, have I experienced any kind of unpleasantness because of my country of origin.

I suspect this notion that American's are hated overseas is mostly an old wives tale perpetuated by a bunch of xenophobes who've never actually left the country.
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:00 PM   #31
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With respect to "anti-Americanism" abroad, I personally haven't experienced it. Most of the people I've met abroad are delighted to talk about their trips to NY, or their nephew who's going to school in North Carolina, or any number of other things. Rarely, if ever, have I experienced any kind of unpleasantness because of my country of origin.

I suspect this notion that American's are hated overseas is mostly an old wives tale perpetuated by a bunch of xenophobes who've never actually left the country.
Same here. Last trip abroad it was "my friend/bro/sis studied/worked in Chicago/NYC/LA. Is that near your [east coast state of residence]?" Yes, it is near as compared to the 5000 miles that separates me where I was versus my home in the US.

I think it is some attitude that certain Americans adopt that other cultures or countries are far superior to the USA in some or all respects. As a result, they think other people abroad SHOULD hate us all and hate our national origin.

It is probably like a small segment of the US that "hated" the french sometime in the 2000's decade for something they did (can't recall - musn't have been very important). You know, the "freedom fries" eaters. Would a person in France be accurate if they said "All Americans hate French people"? No!

And then there is a distinction between hating a nation of people and hating individual people. Non-Americans may hate the US for being imperialist bastards (or [insert insult here]). But when you strike up a conversation with a non-American, you are dealing one on one with another living, feeling, thinking human being that is probably interested in you as an individual more than hating you as an imperialist bastard.

I don't know - maybe those Canadian flag wearing Americans just don't have very good interpersonal skills. Or maybe they spend most of their time abroad hanging out with fellow Americans wearing Che Guevara shirts traveling the hippie circuit, and all hating on their own country.
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:15 PM   #32
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I think it is some attitude that certain Americans adopt that other cultures or countries are far [inferior]to the USA in some or all respects. As a result, they think other people abroad SHOULD hate us all and hate our national origin.
I think there is some of that. I think there is also a lot of just plain ignorance. A quick calc at the US Passport site shows that fewer than 100MM Americans have passports. That means at least 2/3 of our population doesn't leave the country. Maybe never has. It's easy for people to believe stereotypes when they never actually confront reality. Mark Twain said it best in The Innocents Abroad . . .

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:31 PM   #33
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I think there is some of that. I think there is also a lot of just plain ignorance. A quick calc at the US Passport site shows that fewer than 100MM Americans have passports. That means at least 2/3 of our population doesn't leave the country. Maybe never has. It's easy for people to believe stereotypes when they never actually confront reality.
I have always associated the "wear a Canadian Flag on your backpack and you'll be ok" with the stereotypical 20-something American who spent a summer during or after college backpacking from hostel to hostel in Europe (or SE Asia), hanging out with mostly 20-something backpacking westerners of very similar mindset. I just assumed these people thought it was cooler to be from somewhere that wasn't big bad US of A.
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:39 PM   #34
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Never had any issues with anti-Americanism during my travels. This includes a few majority-Muslim countries that I've been to. I don't make it a point of announcing loudly that I'm American ("American coming through, please make way") but when asked, I don't ever say that I'm Canadian or anything else. I remember one particular incident when an Australian and I apologized to each other for the actions of our respective countrymen at a hostel where we we both staying!

The vast majority of people are friendly, especially when you butcher attempt to speak their language. Some people are genuinely curious about certain perceptions about America which could start a political discussion. But I've never had non-civil discussion.

It's so easy to pigeon-hole people or to boil an entire country into a sum of its stereotypes. Fortunately, it's equally easy to melt away a stereotype once you start talking to an individual.
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Old 04-01-2010, 07:08 PM   #35
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I was "bilingual" at one point in my life - I studied Castillian Spanish for 4 years in high school. These days, I can still read just enough to get by. I'm not able to converse or write freely, but I would do very well with a phrase book.
My overseas travel has been very limited, however...
Once upon a time in the 1990s, I flew solo to Europe to meet up with LH, who was already there on business. The plan was to bop around Germany, Holland, and Denmark by car. He had done this when he was in the Navy stationed in Naples in the 1970s.
No way was I going to be an ugly American overseas. I was armed with pocket size Berlitz phrase guides. I memorized several cordial phrases for initial greetings or simple questions. My attempts at speaking German, Dutch, and Danish were very well received.
It may have had something to do with the smile on my face and positive body language. Then everyone switched to English.
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:46 PM   #36
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We experienced a lot of anti-American sentiment in France after the invasion of Iraq while we were visiting in 2003. Particularly upsetting was dirt in our water at a diner (a big pinch, mind you, with vermiculite floating to the top). C'mon, my child is 12 and you're putting dirt with fertilizer in his water?

All other visits to different countries have been great. We were probably ugly Americans in Japan though - we had all caught a cold in China and had runny noses. How do the Japanese refrain from blowing their noses in public when they have a cold?
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Old 04-01-2010, 09:38 PM   #37
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How do the Japanese refrain from blowing their noses in public when they have a cold?
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Old 04-01-2010, 11:19 PM   #38
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We experienced a lot of anti-American sentiment in France after the invasion of Iraq while we were visiting in 2003. Particularly upsetting was dirt in our water at a diner (a big pinch, mind you, with vermiculite floating to the top). C'mon, my child is 12 and you're putting dirt with fertilizer in his water?

Few select people on this board are aware of this, but I am a Frenchman. There. I've said it. Even if it eats me alive sometimes, I guard this information very carefully. So I still feel a bit uneasy coming out on a public forum like this one.

I am very sorry to hear what happened to you in France. It's inexcusable. It's one thing to oppose a country's policies and quite another to verbally or physically attack that country's citizens.

But I can attest that the French community living in the US had to deal with similar BS. It was so bad in 2004 that I almost moved back to Europe. In addition to the personal attacks, the constant and widespread French-bashing in the media became unbearable and each anti-French comment or joke became like a dagger that someone planted in my stomach. It felt horrible.
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Old 04-01-2010, 11:40 PM   #39
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Few select people on this board are aware of this, but I am a Frenchman.
Living in Alabama, to boot! I was born here, and I would have major reservations about living in Alabama. Even driving through Alabama.

The only country I have experienced anti-American treatment is Canada. Maybe a whiff in Germany and Holland (so much for having a Dutch surname), but the Canucks (not uniformly, but IMHO more than half) are definitely hostile. (I learn so much by keeping my mouth shut and listening. )

Cheers,

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Old 04-02-2010, 10:02 AM   #40
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The only country I have experienced anti-American treatment is Canada. Maybe a whiff in Germany and Holland (so much for having a Dutch surname), but the Canucks (not uniformly, but IMHO more than half) are definitely hostile. (I learn so much by keeping my mouth shut and listening. )
The bastion of civility, Canada? Say it ain't so!!
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