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07/10/2008

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There's the Tom we all know and love. A conservative blog posts something Tom disagrees with and suddenly that speaks for the entire Republican party and all Republicans.

Yet, for some reason the freaks at Democratic Underground are a fringe group and don't reflect the Democratic party at all.

Ya gotta love double standards and hypocrisy.

Of little importance to Tom, the "America stays America" statement had little to do with language. According to your source, The statement was "Mitt Romney was offended, and played a clip from last night's Hannity and Colmes wherein he said that Obama looks towards Europe for a lot of his inspiration - raising taxes, government health care - and that's not right for America. John McCain is going to make sure that America stays America."

Didn't see language mentioned there at all.

Further, the Fox News anchors went as far as to state they were embarrased they didn't speek more languages. But then why let little things get in the way of a sweeping generalization about the Republican Party.

Incidentally, I'm a Republican and I do find it embarassing that so few Americans (including myself) can speak any other languages. I've found that in most countries I've visited, including some very poor Caribbean islands, two to three languages is the norm.

The idea that this isn't Republicans is absurd. The last time I touched on this subject it was Trent Lott, recently deposed Republican Senate Majority Leader, operating as a campaigner for the sitting Republican President of the United States.

As for this week's kerfuffle, how many links do you want demonstrating that this has more than a fringe of conservatives in a snit? Fox News is on the story, and you don't get more party-line than Fox News. Mitt Romney, contender for the Republican Veep spot, is carving a simple statement about foreign languages into a screed about Obama "looking to Europe for inspiration" on issues that have nothing to do with what he was talking about...and you don't think it says anything about the Republican Party's reinforcement of provincialism and isolation? You don't think it teaches the lesson that engagement with the outside world is a bad and scary thing?

I, personally, speak Spanish passably along with a smattering of German, thanks to 7 years total spent living in Germany in two separate tours.

I think Obama's remarks were, quite frankly, stupid. I do think that it is helpful to speak other languages, and both of my children are taking Spanish. But at the core of the matter is the fact that most of the world speaks English because we are the world's super power and it behooves the rest of the world to know how to deal with us. I learned Spanish because I lived in Arizona and made frequent trips to Mexico and decided it would be better to know what the vendors were saying to each other as they tried to fleece this gringo. However, just because immigrants are coming to this country doesn't mean we have to learn their language. It means they need to learn how to assimilate into our culture and speak our language.

My great-grandfather was a Polish immigrant who spoke seven languages, but he taught his five children only one.. English. He told them, correctly I might add, that, "You are in America, you need to be an American." That is what too few people understand these days. Yes, be proud of your heritage, but when you emigrate to a country, you should be prepared to assimilate into that country's culture.

If, on the other hand, you want to vacation in Cancun every year, maybe you should pick up a little Spanish to impress the senoritas.

"Fox News is on the story, and you don't get more party-line than Fox News."

Yes, they are, saying things like:
They are "squarely in favor of learning foreign languages and both lamented that they don't - Carlson wishes to speak her family's Swedish, and Napolitano, having had six years of Latin, has to wait to speak to the Pope. "

Or

Carlson and Napolitano again defended Obama's exhortation to parents to have their children learn a foreign language

Or in response to one person who complained about Obama "lecturing" :

Carlson said "that's just ridiculous" and said she hopes her kids end up speaking ten languages. She reiterated that she doesn't speak Swedish and quite frankly, she's embarrassed about it.

Yeah, I sure see why you are in a snit.

Those evil Republicans and Fox News, how DARE they agree with Obama.


For the majority of Americans, learning another language would be an irrational choice.

I'm a successful international lawyer. I've handled matters in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. I've lived in 6 countries and traveled to more than I can count. And I am fluent in one language, English.

With English as the accepted international language, the time, cost and effort of learning another would far-outweigh the benefit. If that's true for me, in my profession, it's true for just about everyone else in America too.

As Frank would understand, most of the foreign phrases I know are relevant only to getting laid.

I find it fascinating that English is spoken as a second or foreign language by more people than speak it as a first language. As Conrad pointed out, there are limited returns for native English speakers to learn another language, and the rewards seldom outweigh the effort.* In contrast, there are excellent returns to be made by non-natives in learning English.

I've seen T-shirts worn by military linguists that say, "We learn (language name) so you don't have to." Interesting point they're making.

*I say this as someone who speaks a language that is very difficult for native English speakers to acquire, and at a high level of proficiency. I make my living with this language--at present, teaching it.

I always enjoy the moment when Americans leave the U.S. for the first time and head to Europe. They love the outdoor cafes, the trams, and they feel a little self conscious about the language thing. It never fails; they always come back with this dewy eyed "Europe is just the best!" sort of attitude.

Of course the spell wears off after a couple of trips when they realize that European society isn't quite as great as initial experiences led them to believe. Class mobility is extremely limited, governmental intrusions into every day life are much greater, and all those multi-lingual Europeans? Well, to a large degree it is the educated class only. If daddy was a security guard, or if you didn't do so well on those boards when you were 12, there is a good chance you didn't get the education that others received.

To me, O'Bama reveals an innocence and lack of cultural sophistication that is frankly, surprising given his supposed international background. So while I can agree that it would be nice for American kids to learn a second language, and indeed both my children are, it is hardly necessary. I've traveled the world on business my entire career. Negotiated deals, had people on multiple continents report to me while I was working for a European bank. Don't speak nuttin' but good ole American.

Presidential timber? The kid just doesn't have it. Perhaps McCain could make him Secretary of Education.

Most of the snit I heard during six hours on the road today was that the Messiah keeps uttering "Europe" as some vague place we should look to as a guiding light for the USA. Everybody I heard said that learning a second is a fine idea, but that it makes no difference in the measure of a man.

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