One thing I have noticed on the 20/20 thread , and now here is people not understanding the difference between " white privlege" and racism. They are not the same.
In the year that I was planning my wedding, not once did I see an African-American model on the cover of Bride's magazine. So being able to see your likenes on the cover of a Bridal magazine is an example of "white privelege". Do I think the editors of Bride's magazine are racist - absolutely not! That would be absurd for me to indicate that since I do not know them persoanally.
"White privelege" is a way of saying that most things in America are geared towards Caucasians.
I work in San Francisco, CA. There are alot of different cultures represented here. Working in the hospital I have to communicate with patients whom may not always speak english. We have interpreters on staff who assist us. So I agree with a PP who said it depends on what area of the US you live, the different cultures you may encounter.
"For whatever reason, our country just doesn't think it's necessary to know another language."
I'll offer a few observations on this. I have thought long and hard about this.
First, if one is an Average American, what foreign language would you recommend they learn? Spanish? French? Italian? Chinese? One can make a good case for many different second languages.
For the Average Non-English Speaker, English is the obvious choice for a second language.
Next, how far would most Americans have to travel to be in a place where a foreign language is spoken by the natives? There's French Canada, easily accessed by car from the Northeast US. Mexico is not all that easily accessed by car, even from the border states, as there is insurance and carnet paperwork associated with taking a car across the border. Anywhere else would require overseas travel, either by boat or by air.
Compare that to living and growing up in Europe. Borders are, mostly, completely open in Europe. There is no problem with driving between most European nations. Just last week, I went by car from Belgium to the Netherlands, back (briefly) through Belgium, then into Germany. At no point did the car even slow down at a border. We saw "Welcome to Germany" from the car window, at 120 kmh. Within the Euro Zone, there is no need to even change money. I spent the same Euros in the Netherlands, in Belgium and in Germany.
But, I was in three different native language zones. In the Netherlands and in northern Belgium, Dutch (aka Flemish) is spoken. German, of course in Germany and in southern Belgium French is spoken. A Flemish-speaking Belgian who wishes to be immersed in French need only get on local public transport and go south about 100km. More ambitions? The language student could go another 100km and be in France.
A good friend of mine in Germany is fluent in English and conversant in Italian, French and Dutch. Why? Because he has spent considerable time in those countries. As an EU citizen, he doesn't need any kind of work visa to get a job anywhere in the EU.
By contrast, as an American, I would have a difficult time getting a job in any nation but my own, just as foreign nationals have a tough time getting a job here.
At any rate, that's my opinion. It's sad to me that so few Americans speak a second language, but I can understand why. I have had this type of discussion many times in many foreign countries with those who dis monolingual Americans.
Absolutely excellent response, AOTB. I've been following this thread, and you really took the words outta my mouth. Yep, it's a shame we don't learn foreign languages as well as the Europeans, but most of our citizens rarely need to use another language, certainly not as frequently as the average European.
As to the French, I had no problem with them when I was there. I mean, I think you generally find the same breakdown of people in urban versus rural areas as you'd find in the US: you see more hospitality the further you get from the major cities. Even then, I met some really nice people in Paris, and my French is laughable. I can pronounce it well, but have no memory for vocabulary, so I used to get just a few words in before they just obligingly launched into English.
Oh, and sorry to swing slightly off-topic, but has anyone else noticed how many hostels and hotels in Europe are owned by Australians, and how clean and hospitable they are? Also notice how no one of any nationality can hate the Aussies: they're the life of the party no matter where you go!