America's lacking language skills

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golf264  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:58
English to Dutch
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We have a saying in Dutch, Nood zoekt brood - If the need comes to the man.... May 11, 2015

The Yankees have no need for multilingualism as long as they stay in their own country. At most, they need some Spanish, and that particularly in the southern states, but they get away with it as there will always be someone around who knows both languages.

To find out the reason of the prevailing aversion and rejection of languages ​​other than English one must look at the history of the US. A few centuries long there were few outside influences, the Indian languages ​​were so varied and numerous that they hardly were worth anything, and moreover, the Americans were planning to exterminate them. Canada emerged later and was largely friendly (except the Indians) so also from that side there was no coercion or force involved.

The Spaniards in the south were the only ones that represented other interests, but also against them the plan was forged to limit their impact through expanding the boundaries as much as possible to the south and to displace these populations (the Mexican- American war is a great example).

This was in sharp contrast to Europe, which had about 4 to 5 as many languages ​​when taken over the same geographic area (and real languages, not small dialects) and as many different cultures and races. So there was really a need in Europe to learn more languages, in the interests of residential options.

These requirements and the associated response (language learning) have over many years helped Europeans generally to have more affinity for language and better talent. They learn other languages ​​usually faster than their counterparts across the pond, and they also retain knowledge better.

If you consider that America has experienced great periods in its development of isolationism, in which the opinion dominated that their country was the "best" country, and wanted to be as independent as possible, it is not hard to imagine why the American of today has those same attitudes and language skills.

It's just a particular cultural, social, and genetic development.


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Camille Beaupin
Peru
Member (2010)
Spanish to French
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French versus Bengali? May 12, 2015

Interesting but I don't think the comparison between French and Bengali makes sense. When you choose a language, you have to take into account the amount of time required to learn it. I think that's the reason why many Americans choose European languages.

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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 17:58
Member (2005)
English to Russian
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Some idiotic claims May 12, 2015

How can you even compare the importance of French, one of 7 official world languages, with that of Bengali?

What is more, the article is factually wrong.

Around 190 million people speak French as a second language, and an additional 200 million speak it as an acquired foreign language. French speaking communities are present in 57 countries and territories.

Source: https://resources.clie.ucl.ac.uk/home/sac/french

While I readily agree that language education may be more important than the US thinks it is, this article doesn't make a good case for it as the author doesn't know what he/she is talking about.

[Edited at 2015-05-12 13:33 GMT]


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fazil
Uzbekistan
Russian to English
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I don't see a point May 13, 2015

In the market economy, you can't afford wasting resources for learning languages that don't bring short- and mid-term benefits.

It's even worse, if you trick students into studying languages that would leave them jobless.

Generally, language services are auxhiliary to any other business.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:28
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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Why Bengali is important to the Americans, and generally for every one May 13, 2015

First the Americans.

It is a cliché that America is an immigrant-based society, but it is true. The reason why America continues to be a relatively young society while Europe is alarmingly ageing is because it takes in millions of immigrants every year, whereas Europe prefers to let them drown in the seas around it.

Most of these immigrants now come from South Asia (where Bengali is spoken in India and in Bangladesh) which is the only area in the world other than Africa which has a young population and from which other countries can draw immigrants.

In the US, there are millions of Bengali-speaking immigrants, students and citizens, and Bengali learning in the US will definitely help them in more ways than one, and also the US. Probably, there are millions more of Bengali-speaking people in the US than French-speaking ones, so even numerically, Bengali is much more important to the domestic needs of the US than French.

There are strategic reasons too, for the US population to learn its Bengali. The US is entering into a close economic and strategic relationship with India in its bid to forestall or contain the rise of China which is fast emerging as a potent challenge to its sole superpowerdom. Any knowlegde that US diplomats and politicians can garner about the languages and cultures of India will help them in this.

So I would say, Bengali has the same strategic importance to the US as say Arabic or Urdu, and definitely more than that of French.

Now the rest of us.

Bengali is a very rich and beautiful language which has exquisite literature and poetry. Any one interested in languages will find it a very rewarding experience to learn this language.

Apart from that, learning any language, is good for keeping the brain nimble in old age, and here any language would do, whether Bengali or French, and one does not have any advantage over the other.

[Edited at 2015-05-13 14:29 GMT]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 17:58
Member (2005)
English to Russian
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US population speaking each language May 13, 2015

According to Wikipedia:

There were around 144 thousand Bangladeshis living in the US in 2007.
Roughly 2.07 million Americans over the age of five reported speaking French at home in a federal 2010 estimate.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bengalis
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_language_in_the_United_States

Please note I'm not putting down Bengali.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:28
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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Bengali speakers in America May 13, 2015

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

According to Wikipedia:

There were around 144 thousand Bangladeshis living in the US in 2007.



The figure you have quoted is way off the mark for three reasons:

1. Bengali is not spoken in Bangladesh alone, but also in India. The figure quoted by you specifically mentions Bangladeshis. There would be double that number of Indian Bengali-speakers in the US.

2. The figures are almost a decade old. Every year the US is taking in thousands of new immigrants, and many more Bengali speakers would have got into the US since 2007. During this decade the French influx into the US is likely to be negligible as France itself is undergoing a population shrinkage like many of the European countries including Germany, Russia, and Italy.

3. The natural population growth among Asian and Latin American immigrants is much higher than the natural population growth among immigrants from European countries. So the US would have naturally added more Bengali speakers than French speakers.

Whatever the final figures, neither Bengali-speakers nor French-speakers constitute a trivial portion of the US population, and therefore, both these languages are of immense domestic interest to the US.

I would say the future is with Bengali, due to its positive demographics, than with French.

[Edited at 2015-05-13 16:47 GMT]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 17:58
Member (2005)
English to Russian
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US population speaking each language May 13, 2015

OK, here is an overview from another report:

In the United States, 1 of every 2,037 people age five and older speaks Bengali at home.

That's about 156 thousand people.

http://www.usefoundation.org/userdata/file/Research/Languages/bengali.pdf

While your points appear reasonable, some hard data would be welcome.

And, to counter your claims about French, it is not spoken only in France as you well know, but also in Canada and many African countries.

Overall, one should ideally consider the influence of a language worldwide, rather than simply the number of speakers in his/her own country.

[Edited at 2015-05-13 16:04 GMT]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:28
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English to Hindi
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That argument is easily countered May 13, 2015

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:
Overall, one should ideally consider the influence of a language worldwide, rather than simply the number of speakers in his/her own country.


The reasons for learning a language are not merely the global influence it commands. If that were so, people would only be learning English everywhere in the world.

Languages are learned for various reasons. In the case of the US, which engages with societies and cultures in every part of the world, all languages are strategically important to it. Also, being an immigrant-based and democratic country, every language spoken by its citizens is important to it as it enhances the lives of those of its citizens who speak this language. This is why the US does not even have an official language, though English and Spanish are widely used.


And, to counter your claims about French, it is not spoken only in France as you well know, but also in Canada and many African countries.


Same is true for Bengali. There are thousands upon thousands of Bengali speakers in the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Canada and many other countries. It is said, the entire restaurant business in London is run by Bengalis and the national dish of UK, chicken tikka masala, is largely hand-crafted by Bengalis.

Therefore it is pointless to argue whether French is more important to the US or Bengali, as the fact is both have their importances and unimportances.

[Edited at 2015-05-13 16:26 GMT]


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Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:58
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
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I don't think May 14, 2015

that the main point of the article is about Bengali v. French.
That was simply used as an example.
The main issue at stake is the lack of language skills and education here (USA).


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:28
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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May be not, but it became for this discussion May 14, 2015

Anthony Baldwin wrote:

that the main point of the article is about Bengali v. French.
That was simply used as an example.
The main issue at stake is the lack of language skills and education here (USA).


Anyway.

The lack of language skills of the English speaking people is actually a non issue, given the wide-spread prevalence of English in the world and the fact that there are more non-native English speakers now than native speakers of English. This gives the false impression to English speakers that they can very well get along in the world with English alone and there is no need for them to learn other languages. This explains their declining interest and capability with other languages.

This is a phenomenon well documented and noted by experts. The English are becoming more and more monolingual while the rest of the world is moving in the other direction towards at least bilingualism (own language + English) and often multi-lingualism.

However, it is a dangerous notion that one can get along in the world with English alone, for the level of proficiency of English among non-native speakers of English varies extremely from just a nodding familiarity to full-blooded native-level proficiency. So relying on the English knowledge of the person you are dealing with can often land you in trouble due to the lack of English proficiency of the person.

There is therefore no alternative to seriously studying other languages and English speakers need to get over their smugness about English being universal and get down to learning other languages seriously like other people. It will help them in the long run and given them a more nuanced and accurate view of the world and the cultures and societies that people it.


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Serena Basili  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 15:58
English to Italian
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Lack of language skills and more..(JUST FOR FUN :D) Jun 5, 2015

I think that some "Yankees" should first learn English....everytime I translate something written by an American there are misspellings or grammar mistakes like "it's" instead of "its" and vice versa (just an example).
I'm sure that my fellow translators from the U.S.A. do not belong to the above mentioned type, but I would like to report the words of my friends from London who often go to America for work reasons... "Do Americans really speak English??" hahah

[Edited at 2015-06-05 10:02 GMT]


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