Most People Speak One Language

Clark   Thursday, September 02, 2004, 15:21 GMT
Sanja, I agree. I originally had the intention of trying to say that in America, if most people have only used, only use, and will only use English, would it really matter if the language studied at school was not one of the major languages like French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, etc; and a language like Tlingit in Alaska or Chuchki of Siberia?

And now that I think about it, I should have told Mjd that he missed my point (though I could have been a bit vague). I wrote in my original post:

"So if the average American* speaks only English, and will only speak English, were to study a language in high school, why should he or she have to study a language that would benefit him or her in theory in America if he or she will probably never use it?"

In the next paragraph:

So what I am getting at is why should we study Spanish if we will never use it? Could we not study Latin or Greek or Faeroese instead?

My goal was not to take away from learning about foreign languages/cultures as I think that is very important, but just to say thatif a person never uses one language anyway, why do we have to limit ourselves to one or two languages?
Juan   Thursday, September 02, 2004, 23:19 GMT
What matters is that you learn something. It'll benefit you, full stop. If you don't care for Spanish, fine. Nobody is gonna hold a gun to your head if you don't like the language. We're all individuals and we often like different things. Try Mandarin then, maybe that language will be better suited to your tastes :-) It's almost like you have a major gripe with the Spanish language or something. Why single out Spanish? You could have easily replaced Spanish with say...French. Why learn French for? and so on and so on.
Clark   Thursday, September 02, 2004, 23:53 GMT
Juan, no, I have no major gripe with Spanish. I come from Southern California, and everything from street signs to packaging on toilet paper is in both Spanish and English. So naturally, I use Spanish for my example. However, if you re-read my lasst post, you will see I listed more languages than just Spanish!
nic   Friday, September 03, 2004, 07:40 GMT

Spanish is a major language
nic   Friday, September 03, 2004, 07:44 GMT

You don't especially learn or do something because of a benefict but only because you're interested in. What's the benefit to learn for example how to play tennis? Just because you like!
xafutan   Friday, September 03, 2004, 07:47 GMT
nic sure loves stating the obvious, doesn't he?
nic   Friday, September 03, 2004, 10:12 GMT

Yeah! I like it
Mxsmanic   Friday, September 03, 2004, 17:38 GMT
For Americans living out their lives in the U.S., there's no practical utility to learning any foreign languages. It's good as an academic exercise and it keeps the brain well lubricated, but there really isn't any need or even any occasion to use foreign languages inside the U.S.A., outside of a few specialized circumstances. That includes Spanish, the prevalence of which is not at all evenly distributed throughout the country.
Damian   Friday, September 03, 2004, 22:39 GMT
America must be the most self-contained nation in the entire is so large in area it encomasses every kind of landscape and an entire planet all inside one country. There really is no need for any American to venture forth beyond their national boundaries.....they have everything they need in that regard. Britons, when they retire, seek an easy life in the sun by going to live in Spain or other sunsoaked southern European countries....and in a different cultural environment. The Americans just go down to Florida where everything is familiar to them and they speak the same language and use the same currency.

Unless they really want to maintain their mental agility, and widen their horizons, there is absolutely no need for any American to learn a foreign language. The only impetus for them to do so, as far as I can see, is perhaps to maintain a link with their forebears who emigrated to America in the first place.

Naturally, this results in an American isolationism as perceived by the rest of the world, but why should the Americans worry about that? As I say, they have everything they need....materially. The downside may well manifest itself in other ways.....

I suppose the same could be said for the Australians and New Zealanders..both English speaking island nations and far away from a Continent which has a huge range of different languages in a very much smaller area, comparatively speaking.
Julian   Saturday, September 04, 2004, 00:55 GMT
"Unless they really want to maintain their mental agility, and widen their horizons, there is absolutely no need for any American to learn a foreign language."

That may be true in the rest of the US, but in the American Southwest, it's becoming more and more necessary to be able to speak Spanish, particularly if you're in the service sector or in a profession that deals primarily with the public (nurses, doctors, teachers, government workers, etc.). If you scan through the job ads in the L.A. Times, practically half of them specify "Must be bilingual in English and Spanish."

But then again, Spanish isn't really a foreign language in the Southwest since Spanish speakers were here long before the gringos arrived. :-)
Mxsmanic   Saturday, September 04, 2004, 01:09 GMT
Yes, Spanish invaders were present in the U.S. long before other Europeans. They weren't first, though. Neither were the ostensibly aboriginal Americans. It's kind of pointless to try to figure out who was really first.

Anyway, it's not at all clear that Spanish will remain an important language in the Southwest of the U.S. Anyone who wants to get ahead in the U.S. must become fluent in English, so outside the category of street sweepers and garbage collectors, everyone will eventually learn English, making Spanish unnecessary. Indeed, the main reason why Spanish is so prevalent now is that it gives certain unsavory segments of society a captive audience, so to speak--by keeping people ignorant of English, you can control them better and profit from them. That was the real purpose of bilingual education, too.
Damian   Saturday, September 04, 2004, 07:30 GMT
<<if you're in the service sector or in a profession that deals primarily with the public (nurses, doctors, teachers, government workers, etc.)>>

I assume that includes the Police service? I would guess that police officers, just as much as any of the other professionals, would definitely need to be able to speak and understand Spanish in Southern CA in that case. Perhaps you included them in "government workers"?

I've heard Hispanics being interviewed on TV reports from the US, and they obviously have very pronounced accents, but most of them speak very broken English. Do they ever make an effort to speak in a proper standard American accent? Or have they not yet been there long enough?
mjd   Saturday, September 04, 2004, 07:57 GMT
That usually depends on one's class and education.
proper accent   Saturday, September 04, 2004, 08:25 GMT

could you tell us which accent is proper?
This is a very tough question for foreigners.

How to get a proper pronounciation, what is wrong with our pronounciation etc.
Really i like to hear your opinion on it.
Mxsmanic   Saturday, September 04, 2004, 09:29 GMT
The "proper" accent is the one that is least likely to be noticed by native speakers in the situations and areas where you intend to use the language.

If you are living in the United States, then, it would be appropriate to learn to speak General American English. This is the flavor of English spoken in most of the U.S., including the West Coast, so if you use this pronunciation, you will not appear to have any accent to the natives.

Some Hispanic immigrants do make an effort to speak correctly, but you don't notice them very much because they eventually succeed, thus concealing their Hispanic origin. The ones you notice are the ones who don't bother to correct their accents.