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View Full Version : United States English Only ? Those with thick accents need not apply?



Yvette Jene
04-30-2013, 02:16 PM
Because I wrote so much (I am particularly passionate about this subject) I'm putting the discussion stuff up here so you can see. Questions to answer or discuss:

1. Should there be an official language in the United States?
2. Have you ever had trouble understanding someone foreign to you? As a student or otherwise?
3. Do you speak another language? If so, is English your second? If so, have you ever dealt with language stigmatization?
4. Other stuff related to this topic (Language, other countries and language, Bilignualism, multilingualism, etc)
5. If there would be one language you'd like everyone to speak throughout the world, what would it be?
6. If you're not a United States resident, and are in a different country, tell us about how language is seen there in comparison!

If you don't want to read it all, that's fine with me. Just don't gimme that, "Man, ain't nobody got time for that," nonsense. D:
-~-~-~-~-~-

There's been debates about whether or not the United States should make English our "official language" for decades. I think, 6 or 7 years ago a law was put forth to only hire Teachers or TA's in Universities who speak "clear English" in Minnesota Universities and colleges (I'm from Minnesota.) This was because of a rise in complaints against foreign TAs and instructors at universities, whom the students felt could not communicate effectively and therefore caused them to misunderstand material and inevitably fail the course.

There has been very little in response toward this argument, because we feel as a country that if you come here and want to be a part of the country, that you must learn English. While I agree that if you are going to move to a country, you should definitely learn the language of the country you're planning on living in (that's just common sense,) I don't feel that laws should be placed hindering those who want to move here and do not know English very well.

Now something that I find very interesting, and I hope you will see it too, is the concept of racism, and other stigmas being tied to language.

Racism is heavily frowned upon in our society now, but people still are racist (it happens, we're growing out of it ?) When someone uses racist expletives about someone who is of any particular ethnicity or skin color, we shame them and call them a biggot.

However, it is completely fine to make remarks and stigmatize a language or even an accent. I'll explain why this is important.

To make base remarks about a culture outside of your own, regardless of intent, can be seen as offensive. "All ___ are ____." "I don't really like ___, because they ____." We can't SAY that without some sort of repercussion. However, we can say, "I don't like the accent that people have from the south, it drags on and I can't understand what they're saying. It's such a lazy way to talk, why can't they just speak normally?" There's a stigma then placed on people who have that specific accent, that those people are lazy. The same goes for people who speak another language but have accented English because of that accent.

I had an excellent TA two semesters ago who had a Masters degree in some scientific field (I think biology) and she spoke English well enough that I could understand her. Sometimes we as a class would have to help her with pronunciations of pronouns (like historical names) and latin-based scientific terms. She was very smart, but the other students would always make fun of her when she wasn't around. I heard one of them even whine, "Why doesn't she just go back to China or wherever?"

This is where the line has been crossed from language stigmatization to racism and where motivations are particularly clear. It's not because you can't understand her, it's because you don't want her in your country.

-~-~-~-~-~-

SO HERE'S THE PART THAT ACTUALLY MATTERS. Or, you know, tl;dr.

A study done by Donald Rubin in 1992 had groups of undergraduate students listen to a short lecture (under 5 minutes.) The lecture was given by a woman from Ohio, where the general whole of the United States claims to "not have an accent" or "speaks clear English." The students listened to the lecture, but did not see the woman who spoke. They, instead, put a picture of a white woman in front of them in one group, and a Chinese-American woman in the second group.

The first group scored higher in a comprehension quiz after the lecture was given, and the second group had students complain that the lecturer was incomprehensible. Keep in mind that this was the same exact lecture given through recording. The only difference was that the students saw an Asian-American giving the lecture in their minds rather than a Caucasian American.

-~-~-~-~-~-

As speakers of any language, we both do work to communicate. Speakers attempt to speak clearly and listeners attempt to make sense of the messages received. Work is done by both parties. However, we have been told that it is mostly on the speaker when a problem occurs. If I don't understand you, it is because you are not speaking clearly. Not because I have decided not to try and understand what you say.

Because of our preconceptions of what is easy or difficult to understand, if we talk to someone who is speaking with an accent, we unconsciously forgo trying to listen actively because we feel as though this person is not comprehensible and we shouldn't have to work to understand them.

DISCUSS LANGUAGE AND CULTURE AND COUNTRIES AND STUFF NAO..?

jubeh
04-30-2013, 03:26 PM
I feel like second languages should be taken more seriously in school so we can really appreciate how hard it is to learn them, and why anybody would have trouble learning such stupid shitty language as english.

This TED talk is about how we're exposed to sounds as wee babbys and how it effects our ability to use those sounds when we begin to learn how to speak. Language learning starts before you've ever opened your mouth.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2XBIkHW954

Yvette Jene
04-30-2013, 03:46 PM
I love TED talks, I could watch them forever.

It's also totally true that language is intimately tied to culture. As we learn language, we learn culture too. Without language, we could argue that there ISN'T culture.

We can forget this because we are exposed only to one culture. Concepts that are very apparent in other cultures (like Japanese culture,) are completely missing in Western American cultures because of how language can create these concepts.

I read in this book, "Wisdom Sits in Places," about a native American culture, where "places" are considered a very important concept in their language. In this specific culture, they merely state a place. The statement could be an equivalent to "It happened in the woods nearby, in a cave," in English. To us, this doesn't make sense. What happened? Why is it important? However, in this native American culture, they do this sometimes when referencing culturally specific stories. They say "It happened at ____," and this brings forth images in the minds of people of that culture who know the stories. They can find relatedness in their lives to these stories based upon the place. It's language in metaphor !

In Western cultures, we are more apt to tell details of a story to others, "First, __, second, __, thirdly, ___," in chronological order. We're more interested as a culture in the concept of TIME, rather than the concept of WHERE.

This in itself can show how cultural differences are intimately linked with how we understand each other through language. When we develop a language to include the importance of SPACE rather than TIME, in this example, we then get different cultures and also a different way of speaking completely.

So, when we're babies, we learn what is more important in our specific culture, and learn how to speak and communicate to others this way.

Kodos
04-30-2013, 05:27 PM
1. Should there be an official language in the United States?
I can see no reason why there should be.
2. Have you ever had trouble understanding someone foreign to you? As a student or otherwise?
Yes. Although it's largely me. I am terrible with a lot of accents. If you have a heavy accent and talk fast, odds are I won't be able to follow. Oddly it's more the 'Hispanic' accents that give me trouble. I'm pretty good at understanding people with thick East Asian or Indian accents.
3. Do you speak another language? If so, is English your second? If so, have you ever dealt with language stigmatization?
According to my High School and the New York State Department of Education I speak Italian. I don't. According to my college I also understand and can 'speak' American Sign Language. I remember a little bit of that at least.
4. Other stuff related to this topic (Language, other countries and language, Bilignualism, multilingualism, etc)
Lorem ipsum
5. If there would be one language you'd like everyone to speak throughout the world, what would it be?
Klingon.
Nothing. I see nothing wrong with diversity.
6. If you're not a United States resident, and are in a different country, tell us about how language is seen there in comparison!
This doesn't apply to me.

GunZet
04-30-2013, 05:34 PM
5. If there would be one language you'd like everyone to speak throughout the world, what would it be?

Peace

Aether
05-01-2013, 12:12 AM
1. Should there be an official language in the United States?
There should be an official language in every country. However, I don't see how Americans have any leg to stand on with racism. It's a country founded on immigration; just like Australia.

2. Have you ever had trouble understanding someone foreign to you? As a student or otherwise?
Of course, I think everyone has.

3. Do you speak another language? If so, is English your second? If so, have you ever dealt with language stigmatization?
No, though I do want to learn Portuguese.

4. Other stuff related to this topic (Language, other countries and language, Bilignualism, multilingualism, etc)
There's a fucking shitload of racism in Australia. There are so many "true Australians" that just unnecessarily hate asians and indians. I don't even understand why.

5. If there would be one language you'd like everyone to speak throughout the world, what would it be?
Swedish.

6. If you're not a United States resident, and are in a different country, tell us about how language is seen there in comparison!
I don't really understand what you're asking here.

EDIT: From time to time, I get people ask me which country I come from. Probably because I speak quickly, but still; it's fucking retarded.

Justinian_stalker
05-16-2013, 07:59 PM
Personally for the sake of practicality I think the US should have an official language. I'm not going to get into the hysterical political mess associated with it.

I speak some french. Parlez-vous Français? Peut-être .... Je pense que si tu peux parler beaucoup de langues, il est très bon! :cat_ahahaha:

As far as difficult accents go, Indians who learn English as a second language are generally difficult to understand, as well as Asians in general. I have a Korean friend and at times it is very difficult to understand what he is saying.

I can see how this would be very difficult for students. If you are teaching English speakers, you need to be FLUENT in English. I'm a college student and I've had more than one class where it is pretty much impossible to understand the teacher and this can be detrimental to your understanding of the material.

Rio
05-16-2013, 08:08 PM
More like, it just depends on how thick their accent is plus if you listen really well, you can generally understand what they're saying. ...Though I will say that sometimes people will pronounce a word differently from what you're expecting and that can cause problems... or lols. :p

Sylux
05-16-2013, 08:38 PM
When I was in Europe, I was able to speak three languages and be understood: German, Spanish, and English. Now, many folks only understood two of the three, but the fact that many people in other cultures take the time to learn the language of another closeby (or even far away!) culture shows that we're only being arrogant as proclaiming a single official language. The predominant language can be English, yes, but to not be pompous assholes about our self-illusionary cultural superiority, we should at least include Spanish as our secondary language. 'Murica: Fuck Yeah is only funny if you're not serious about being culturally oblivious.

GunZet
05-16-2013, 09:01 PM
That's odd though, cause dont most schools include Spanish, French, German, or sometimes Japanese as pretty much requisites in like highschool, and sometimes needed to get degrees in a certain major in college?

jubeh
05-16-2013, 09:17 PM
In a lot of other countries english is taken extremely seriously and then you have another language you learn just like we do that everyone blows off just like we do. So we don't actually have to learn a language we just have to pass a language course.

Justinian_stalker
05-17-2013, 12:16 PM
When I was in Europe, I was able to speak three languages and be understood: German, Spanish, and English. Now, many folks only understood two of the three, but the fact that many people in other cultures take the time to learn the language of another closeby (or even far away!) culture shows that we're only being arrogant as proclaiming a single official language. The predominant language can be English, yes, but to not be pompous assholes about our self-illusionary cultural superiority, we should at least include Spanish as our secondary language. 'Murica: Fuck Yeah is only funny if you're not serious about being culturally oblivious.

I don't think making English the official language would be a sign of "superiority". It isn't as if we'd be making it the official language of the world. English is the main language of the United States and always has been. Even immigrants coming today strive to learn English. I know many immigrants and learning English is part of what they consider being American. You seem to have some unfair assumptions about people who support an official language as well.

Psy
05-17-2013, 01:56 PM
If its the main language spoken here and everyone around the world knows that then what's the point of officially stating the obvious? It's not like we are jailing people for not speaking it. It comes with no negative or positive repercussions for anyone. It's redundant.
I think people should speak what they like and learn what they like but know that not everyone will always be able to understand you.
Speaking more than one language increases your chances of getting better paying jobs because its just a fact that not everyone can understand each other.

Harvester_Of_Sorrow
07-03-2013, 09:51 AM
1. Should there be an official language in the United States?

Every time it has been attempted to establish English as the official language of the United States, the Spanish and Chinese speaking minorities get annoyed about it. I can understand this. The US is an immigrant nation, as are many others. Too have an official language seems as odd as it is pointless.

2. Have you ever had trouble understanding someone foreign to you? As a student or otherwise?

I have traveled a huge amount in my life and encountered many accents that I had difficulty understanding, yes.

3. Do you speak another language? If so, is English your second? If so, have you ever dealt with language stigmatization?

I speak French and have recently started learning Spanish. I'm toying with the idea learning Russian, but that will have to wait. I go to France often and I have been told that when I speak French I either mumble (worse than a Parisian, I was told), I speak too quickly or I sound very posh (I was once told by an otherwise very nice lady working at a hostel in Libreville, Gabon that I sounded like Louis XIV. How she knew what Louis XIV sounded like is anyones guess...) So, yes, as a native English speaker, conversing in my second language does have its problems. But usually people will take into account that you are not a native French speaker and slow down their pattern of speech for you or use simpler words. I do this also when I speak to people who are not native English speakers. But the more you keep going with the language the easier the pronouncation gets, the less you get stared at blankly when you ask for things in shops and the more filth and cursing you learn in that langauge...

Je pense que la meilleure façon de gérer cela est de vous va te faire foutre...

4. Other stuff related to this topic (Language, other countries and language, Bilignualism, multilingualism, etc)

Its an interesting topic and one which I think relates closely to racism, as you rightly said. Someone who posted before mentioned that if a teacher is to lecture at a college then they have to be able to speak the native language FLUENTLY. Well, I don't think there is any doubt that they will be able to speak the language fluently, otherwise they would not have gotten the job in the first place. The problem is the accent. My Spanish teacher is from Mexico and her English is almost flawless. The trouble that some of my classmates have is that when she is explaining the meaning of a Spanish word in English, they can't understand her and thus, fail to learn Spanish. This just simply doesn't happen to me. Maybe I have a good ear for accents, but I simply don't have a hard time understanding people who speak with a different accent. And, without bragging, I've been to Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Belize and many other parts of the English speaking world and had no problem understanding any one there (apart from the drunks, but no one understands them).

But surely I'm not unique? Surely my DNA didn't replicate itself in such a way as to give me an advantage in the area of understanding accents above the average person. I don't think that's very likely. My theory on this is related to racism, in a sense. I think a lot of people hear a foreign accent and their brain just doesn't want to process the information being told to them. Even if a Chinese woman is speaking perfect English, using a wide vernacular, but speaks like 'I am yor Engrish teacher.' then a lot of folks, it seems to me, just switch off and bother trying. I think their missing a trick. Or they just must try harder to listen to people and bypass something as minor as a fucking accent.

5. If there would be one language you'd like everyone to speak throughout the world, what would it be?

There are less languages spoken now throughout the world than there has ever been. Some countries are trying to bring back their native languages, Gallic in Ireland, Malagasy in Madagascar, Tajik in Tajikistan etc but it seems fairly fruitless on a world scale. Even in Galway, western Ireland, which is known throughout Ireland as being the forefront of the Irish language, they will speak to their friends, their teachers, their parents, the pub landlord, everyone in Irish, but they will watch TV in English, text in English, Facebook in English and so on. It seems no matter how hard they try, English will seemingly never lose its power in Ireland and the same goes for French in Madagascar and Russian in Tajikistan.

Is this a good thing? I don't know. As a keen traveler, it makes life easier for me as there is less language barrier to overcome (memorizing 6 or 7 Russian phrases will get you by sufficiently in the cities of Tajikistan, for example) but you can't help but feel that something has been lost along the way. These diverse and amazing cultures all with their own customs, traditions, mythology, legacies, diets, folklore all wrapped up in their own native language are slowly but surely being overtaken by other languages.

I suppose the common answer to that question would be English. Well, it is happening. It is estimated that by the year 2050, 50% of the worlds population will be able to speak English. That's a lot of people. But I for one do not want to see a global lingua franca. The world would be a much more boring place. It would be like Tamriel, where you have so many different races; high elves, orcs, nords, redguards etc but they all speak perfect English. That always annoyed me about those games.

6. If you're not a United States resident, and are in a different country, tell us about how language is seen there in comparison!

About the same way as the US, I would think. People here in the UK feel that if you come here, you need to learn English, which is fair enough. Its related a lot to immigration. 'They come here off the boat and can't even speak the language.' but of course they can speak the language. How the hell do you think they found work? Do you think they conducted his job interview using glove puppets? Idiots. But again this relates to accents. A lot of 'True Brits' or racists as they are more commonly known, will say that any one who doesn't talk like Prince Charles has no right to live here. I don't understand this mentality at all.

This reminds me of a time I was talking to a Canadian about immigration and he said 'Well, I don't mind if people want to move here ('here' meaning Canada), but they have to adapt to our society and our culture.'

To which I replied 'Oh, so I take it you sleep with a Dreamcatcher above your bed, don't believe in the right to own land and you build Totem Poles to commemorate your ancestors? You know, like what the Hidatsa and Iroquois tribes did? I think what you really mean is that anybody who comes to 'your' country should act just like you.'

I think this story can be related to language.

AlmanacnamedTime
08-13-2013, 12:04 PM
1. Should there be an official language in the United States?

No. There should be multiple and we should be required to know them. I mean be fluent.

2. Have you ever had trouble understanding someone foreign to you? As a student or otherwise?

Nah but I also pick up accents and don't notice.

3. Do you speak another language? If so, is English your second? If so, have you ever dealt with language stigmatization?

I only know English.
I can get around in(speaking/reading/hearing);
-Japanese
-Spanish
Can make myself understood in;
-ASL
-JSL
I know a few words in;
-NM i don't want to list them

4. Other stuff related to this topic (Language, other countries and language, Bilignualism, multilingualism, etc)

I was raised spoken to in three languages and expected to respond correctly. I am not fluent in those languages, but I will be.

5. If there would be one language you'd like everyone to speak throughout the world, what would it be?
No that's no fun. Then I can't insult people in other languages.