Why It’s Strange That Everybody in the United States Speaks English

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Imagine you’re a tourist planning on visiting India. Determined not to be seen as culturally ignorant, you’ve decided to learn Hindi, the official language. As the plane lands in Bangladore, you are confident that you can speak in the native language.

Except when you get out onto the street, the people aren’t speaking Hindi. They’re talking in a dialect of Kannada, and you can’t understand them.

Eventually, after several painstaking months, you learn Kannada as spoken in Bangladore. Now you’re really confident that you’ve got this thing down; you know both Hindi and a very local dialect. You fly to Mumbai.

Except in Mumbai the people on the street don’t speak Kannada, Hindi, or English. They speak Marathi. And a fair share of the elite speak English.

Might as well have stayed with English.

Or imagine you’re visiting China. Once again, as a culturally competent individual you’ve mastered Mandarin, and blast into Shanghai completely prepared.

In Shanghai, however, it turns out that the local language is Shanghainese. You didn’t even know that existed, but when local residents talk to each other you don’t understand any of it.

A local friend you’ve made later, born and bred in Shanghai, confides to you that he feels uncomfortable going to other provinces. In Guangdong locals speak in Cantonese; in Sichuan they speak in Sichuanese; in Tibet they speak in Tibetan; he can’t understand any of it. True, locals can switch to standard Mandarin when talking with non-locals, but he still feels like a foreigner outside Shanghai.

The next day you board a plane back to the United States, where everybody understands and speaks the same exact language. Every word that a person says in Seattle can be comprehended by a person in Houston; every word that a person says in Houston can be comprehended by a New Yorker. With the exception of the South and a few inner-city ghettos, there is even no difference in accent.

This achievement is frequently understated. Many Americans simply assume that things are like this in other countries – everybody in the Middle East speaks Arabic (true, but the regional dialects are mutually incomprehensible), everybody in Nigeria speaks “Nigerian” (definitely not true).

In truth, as the examples of China and India show, it is actually quite strange to think that in a continent-stretching nation with hundreds of millions (or billions) of people, it would be the case that the language would be so uniform. Few countries can claim to have done this. Brazil is one. Russia is another – but remember that Russia is the descendant of the Soviet Union, which tried and failed to impose a Russian common language upon the tens of millions of its non-Russian citizens.

Some conservatives complain that nowadays, there are too many Mexicans who don’t know English. Yet of the Hispanic immigrants who enter the United States, only 6% of their grandchildren will speak Spanish at home.

The extent to which the United States has succeeded in establishing a common language, across a continent and through three hundred million people, remains an amazing, if much-ignored, accomplishment.





A June 23 Newsweek article notes that three senators are interested in the Secretary of State position in an Obama administration: John Kerry, Christopher Dodd, and Joe Biden.
All serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden as Chairman.

Rarely have we seen more qualified candidates, and ones with such language skills. Kerry speaks fluent French, Dodd speaks fluent Spanish, and Biden speaks effluent English.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

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We shall overcome

You do not know how beautiful King's words are until you hear it sung in other languages.

And so, on a day when race and racism threatens to pull us apart, I thought I would compile a collection of "we shall overcome" songs being sung in other languages.

Most of these are in Hindi, one in Bengali.  If anyone has a link to one in any other language, please chime in (for instance, I read of some Gujrati children singing "we shall overcome" to Hillary Clinton back in 1995 ~ supposedly, it moved even her press contingent to tears).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzLzLI4_w UY&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bvNBNdgG qk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipSCbgQXS lc&feature=related

This is one that I really liked: a young father singing it for his son.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXY-fgwZu u8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBto9qoIF SA

AMRA KORBO JOY (Bengali) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fm1uBSgfY MA&feature=related

And this is a really goofy one:  The Indian cricket team singing hum honge kamyab commercial:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjfdjFtLv 2k&feature=related

PS:  I must say that YouTube proved to be somewhat pathetic for this.  I have heard much better renditions of "We shall overcome" myself.

PPS:  I do not know how to "embed" videos.  I would be much obliged if anyone could teach me how to do that.

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