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Who doesn't want to know English?

? Glad to See Hitwise Weigh in on Digg v. NYTimes Traffic |


| Crying, diving, head-butting: My only World Cup post ?

July 08, 2006

Who doesn't want to know English?

Stephen Baker

The mayor of a nearby New Jersey town called Bogota is pushing for a boycott of McDonald's because the hamburger giant has --gasp!--put up a few billboards in Spanish. The mayor is concerned that it sends the message that Spanish-speakers don't need to learn English.

This sounds familiar to me. When I lived in France, the government regulated English-language advertisements for fear that English would overrun French. Their fears were justified. In the last two decades, English has established itself as Europe's language. Europeans who don't know English work at a great disadvantage in Europe (and elsewhere). In an increasingly global economy, they're hard-pressed to communicate across borders.

English is becoming the world's language for economic opportunity, a globalization force in the same league with the Internet. If people hungry for economic opportunity are learning English the world over, why would anyone think they wouldn't want to know it (or more important, have their kids learn it) in the United States, of all places?

10:29 AM

Weekend Rant

We are learning from our mistakes and those of our government.

We certainly would not want to sound like selfish Americans. After all the illegal aliens have shared so much with us. They have educated us in how to close down a hospital, 60 in California alone. They have taught us how to use stolen identities to ruin the credit rating of millions of Americans. They have shared disease, tuberculosis, chagas, leprosy, polio, dengue, plague, and malaria. They have shared their knowledge of how to utilize our social systems that were set up for and paid for by Americans, welfare, EBT, WIC, Section 8, etc. They have shared the new schools and prisons we have built, giving us the opportunity to utilize our property taxes to build more. They have taught us how to drive with no licence, no insurance, and if we cause an accident killing or injuring someone, how to get a new ID to avoid prosecution. They have taught us to be thrifty by living 25 people to a single family dwelling. They have shared with us the knowledge of how to avoid paying taxes, Cash payment, 1099, 14 bogus dependants, except sales tax, they haven’t figured that one out yet unless you count shoplifting. They have shared their highly artistic Graffiti, junk cars in front yards, trash in front yards, loud music all night, drunken parties, a lesson in how to quickly drive down property values. They have shared with us their knowledge of how an anchor baby can give a firm foothold in the USA. They have shared with us the way to get sympathy, “I’m just a poor person who crossed the burning desert to work and give my family a better life". They have shown us the error of our way in not learning to speak a foreign language to get a job in America. They have shared with us the proper way to fly our flag and sing our National Anthem. At the risk of sounding “whinny” I have had just about all the unselfish sharing I can stand.

Posted by: Judy Manning at July 8, 2006 11:38 AM

Heck, just come to Oregon, where the state will demote you if you don't learn Spanish...

Posted by: Aaron B. Hockley at July 8, 2006 12:11 PM

I think the government is right to eliminate English from their billboards.

Spanish is their mother language; it's a part of their culture.

Of course you cannot prevent entry of foreign words to your mother language in an ever-globalizing world. However excessive introduction of English may come to a point that it begins to ruin the host culture itself.

A point where native people also begin to found English-named companies, give English ads on TV, and event request and English resumé for job applications althogh the job definition has nothing to do with English knowledge.

That ruins the culture, you know. And ignoring this fact is a sorta ethnocentric approach.

I prefer to see an "ABC Tasarim Evi"(lang:TR) billboard to an "ABC Design House"(lang:EN) counterpart. But, unfortunately I see English ads

all over.

MC Donald's is not the end-result. It is just a trigger which affects an eventual culture corruption.

And no, I'm not an anti-globalist. I think the world will be better off through globalism and capitalism (if one truly understands the philosophy behind it). However globalism should not result in citizens giving less and less importance to their own culture; using English words on ads just because they sound "fancy".

So you want to learn English, go to a school that teaches it; initiate an international blog; talk to tourists; listen to podcasts, whatever. But not fill the billboards with English (and French and German for that matter) words. It is not supporting others to learn English; it's just catalyzing cultural corruption.

Hope I was able to express my thoughts clearly (since I'm not a native speaker :) )

btw, I constantly and read really appreciate your and Heater's posts.


Posted by: volkan.ozcelik at July 9, 2006 04:43 AM

Wow Judy, don't hold back! I thought al of us Messkin racists lived down here in Texas - guess not...

Posted by: JHM at July 9, 2006 08:47 AM

It's true, learning Spanish is a big boost in finding work in this country, whether it's in law, education, medicine or journalism. I wouldn't have gotten my job at BusinessWeek 19 years ago, or the job before that, or the one before that, without Spanish. Being in the New York area, I have the chance to hear and speak Spanish every day. It's one of the joys of living here.

The importance of Spanish is nothing new. Here's Thomas Jefferson in 1788:

"The Spanish language... and the English covering nearly the whole face of America, they should be well-known to every inhabitant who means to look beyond the limits of his farm." --Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1788. ME 7:44

Posted by: steve baker at July 9, 2006 10:02 AM

Judy's been cutting-and-pasting the same comment on a number of blogs. I did an advanced Google search and found the same posting in five different places.

Posted by: steve baker at July 9, 2006 06:35 PM

In the 50's, the languages of global business were English, French, and Spanish, that then went farther into the world. America's push into world, removed everyone else but the Japanese in the 70's and 80's, and now we have English ruling the world of trade and media. Look for a natural backlash from local media and politicians, as local cultures are deeply affected, we all try to capture that time before major changes. And even local net media, pushing local verbal culture will all work this, as a true national issue. A recent paper had India and China, having a sealing on the level of outsouresing. Because they had limits on the numbers of decent English speakers available to commit to those level jobs. That does make sense, but this global world of business is all about, leveraging one skill into an even deeper penetration into markets. Remember Chinese speaking communities, are planted into all Asian nations, and into most American states. I think for local Chinese communities, the retention of the Chinese language, is going to prove a natural plus, in the connection of world markets back into China. The same for America's Indian speakers, connection deep into India's opening markets, and the same for the expansion of the Spanish language into America. Everyone, try seeing this glass as half full. It can prove a plus for business communication into the Spanish world markets. Lets look how we can naturally leverage our work back into these growing markets. And creating a growing prosperous middle class inside Spanish world markets, is the real answer to our problem.

Posted by: Mike Reardon at July 10, 2006 12:37 AM

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