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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Travel is it all about language or all about Americans?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26879points) April 27th, 2010

Is it all in the language or is it all in the Americans? I have seen in just about every season of the Amazing Race as well as local people those who complain because they traveled to a foreign land and could not find anyone who spoke English. Why would or should anyone get annoyed if they go to France, Brazil, Tibet, Vietnam etc and no one speaks English. Hello, it is not their 1st language. Do that mean that EVERY American should know at least Spanish (seeing we have so many Hispanics here), Chinese (a major world language), German, Italian or some other language often spoken around the world other than English so when any come here as tourist we can tell them in THEIR native tongue “The hotels are on Market street and the cabs stands are over there. Have cash because they don’t take traveler’s checks”? If most of us (me included) are too lazy to learn another nations language why would we EXPECT them to know ours to make our travel through THEIR country more pleasant and easier? It is almost like people think the world should cater to American, which is ridiculous isn’t it?

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27 Answers

DominicX's avatar

English is becoming an international language. Kids around the world in countries where English is not the official language learn English. I’m not saying these people who are annoyed by people not knowing English in foreign countries are even thinking in terms of this, but the fact is that English is becoming an international language, and yes, that is because of America and the influence it has around the world and on the global economy.

As far as I’m concerned, the more languages you know, the better. I have no desire for English to replace any other languages around the world. It’s just beneficial to everyone if there is an international language to facilitate communication in addition to all the native languages.

wilma's avatar

I don’t feel that travel is all about Americans.
I think that is what you asked,... nor is it all about language.
It is about seeing the world and experiencing other cultures.
I will admit that when I travel I like to stay where at least someone speaks my language and can more easily help me if I need assistance. That is the choice I would make about where to spend my money.
They (the people who’s country I am visiting) are in no way obligated to speak English for me, and I find trying to learn their language, part of the travel experience.

lilikoi's avatar

Travel is never always about one thing for everyone.

It can be about language, but it can be about culture, about an experience, about a journey, about friends, or business, or a million other things.

Travel is not all about Americans. Let’s not forget that we aren’t the only people on the planet that travel. No, I don’t expect people in other countries to speak English, but the fact is a lot of people do. I am not too lazy to learn another language, but it does take time. And frankly I can turn this around and say I’m pissed that everyone keeps wanting to speak English to me when I travel so that I have to really fight to build my skills in their language!

Not all people think the world should cater to Americans. We just happen to have a strong economy and wealth, and so the cookie crumbles in a way that makes it easy to assume that we expect everyone to cater to us. Perhaps some people genuinely do, but you can’t judge an entire nation based on a few of its people.

And I just read you were basing your position here on contestants of a TV show and a small transect of a local community. Well that explains quite a bit.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Travel, at least for me, is all about the experience. I’ve been to a lot of different countries but I’ve never found myself frustrated over my hosts inability to speak english, why would I, it’s their country. If I know I’m going someplace where english is unlikely to encountered, I invest in a travel dictionary and make an effort to learn some basic phrases to get by and enough to be polite. I also make sure I always have a supply of local currency on hand. I’ve encountered americans overseas, some of which do seem to carry the arrogance you describe, usually it’s just embarrassing.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

So many people on that show are just downright mean to the locals. That’s never the way to make friends or get someone to help you. Things like that are where the term “ugly Americans” comes from.

Ludy's avatar

You know, I think american people can do anything they want, like they are more than any other nation, that’s how I feel, not saying I like this feeling, cuz I’m mexican, is just how i feel, I had to learn english my first language is spanish. Funny thing: I was disconected from mexico for like 6 years, didn’t know about my relatives or friends, just joined facebook and my surprise… all of them have a very good understanding of English they write, speak very well and I used to feel special because I was bilingual, not anymore!

Trillian's avatar

When I lived in Italy I learned Italian. I never felt that ridiculous notion that they had to understand me. I went by their rules and adapted to their culture. This is why I feel so strongly about having Spanish in my face everywhere I turn. If I went to live in Mexico, I’d learn Spanish. If I went to Iraq, I’d adapt to their customs, I would not demand that they change theirs to suit me.

gailcalled's avatar

From the little I have seen of TAR, half of the contestants can’t speak English very well. And there is an arrogance re; the language issue.

bob_'s avatar

How do you call a person who only speaks one language?
An American.

kheredia's avatar

You know, this is one of the things that irritates me about my country. A lot of Americans don’t speak any other language but English. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t think it is necessary or if they’re just not interested. I speak English and Spanish fluently but I know I had an advantage because I grew up listening to my parents speak Spanish. However, I still feel the urge to learn a third language so I’ll be taking up French next semester. I’ve heard that in some parts in Europe most people speak at least 3 different languages. I wish we were that cultured here in the U.S but what can you do? Some people just don’t value those things like others do.

bob_'s avatar

@kheredia Well, to be fair (or to play devil’s advocate), while Europeans do tend to speak several languages, it’s more a matter of necessity than love of learning. Take the Netherlands: population, 17 million. They had to build a trade-based economy, and when trading it comes in handy if you speak your trade-partner’s language. So these guys speak Dutch, then probably German ‘cause Germany is right next door (and the languages are so similar anyway), and English, ‘cause everybody else speaks it.

kheredia's avatar

@bob_ Yes, but with all the Hispanic people who live in the U.S. and with Mexico being our neighbor, you would think more Americans would speak at least a little bit of Spanish but I hardly ever come across any Americans who at least try to say my last name correctly. To me that says a lot about someone. I have so much respect for the people who take the time to ask me how I pronounce my name and try to say it the way it’s suppose to be said. Others don’t even bother and just continue to butcher my name because it’s not a typical American name. Now that’s just being lazy.

bob_'s avatar

@kheredia Not having needs usually makes people lazy. As someone whose name also gets butchered all the time, I feel your pain.

Factotum's avatar

I have to agree with bob_’s point – most people in America have no practical use for a second language whereas most people in other parts of the world do have a practical use for a second (or more) language.

wilma's avatar

No practical use, no place to use it and no chance to learn it.
When schools are struggling to teach reading, writing and math in English, learning a second language is a luxury that few can afford.
When they can afford it I applaud it.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Well educated people speak more than one language and welcome the opportunity to travel and learn the language and culture of others. I speak two languages well and can read two others, even though I have to rely on dictionaries for full comprehension. I don’t practice those much anymore. I am from Canada.

I would appreciate when people in foreign countries make an effort to make me feel welcome by using English but I would not demand it. The more one tries to speak the local language, the more accommodating the locals tend to be.

Speaking loud in English and waving US currency is no way to get a good reception or make a good impression. Historically, many American tourists have not made favourable impressions when travelling in Europe or Asia. Travelers want to be welcomed not just tolerated.

mattbrowne's avatar

Educated, open-minded Americans should learn one foreign language and it doesn’t matter which one. The effort broadens the horizon and allows you to see the world with different eyes. It also shows Americans what it means when Germans or Russians or Jordanians invest the time to learn English as a foreign language.

Otherwise from a practical point of view, we can’t learn hundreds of languages. So when I travel to Hungary for example I’m hoping they speak English. Same when I travel to Jordan or Vietnam.

As a tourist or business traveler it’s a good idea to learn the top 20 words of the foreign language of that country. That’s it. If you decide to work in their country, say for more than a year, it’s worth learning basic language skills. Otherwise, English will hopefully do.

Ludy's avatar

Why would america had to learn spanish? is like asking the owner to learn dog talking, cause that’s how I feel we’re the dogs and we need america, not the other way around, that’s why I learn English, sad to say it but is true.

kheredia's avatar

@Ludy Wow, I’m sorry you have such low self esteem. The question here is about travel, so if Americans are traveling to your country, don’t you think they should at least know the basics of your language? If I visited France or Italy I think the polite thing to do is prepare myself and learn at least basic phrases in their language so that I can communicate with them. If they speak English, great! But I wouldn’t expect them to cater to my needs.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

If Americans insist on English only (as one Candidate for Alabama governor proposes) in their own country, and expects those from elsewhere to oblige them by using English in business dealings and provision of service to Americans when they travel abroad, then they deserve the consequences of such narrow-minded attitudes both at home and abroad. If you don’t know what consequences, then wait and you will eventually catch on.

I have noted that those who hold such attitudes rarely use English well in spoken or in written form. I guess ignorance leads to ignorant attitudes!

Each of us shares this planet with people who speak different languages, recognize difference cultural and social norms and who have entirely different cosmological and religious (or non-religious) points of view.

I have never understood why being from a country with the greatest military might convinces members of its linguistic majority (for now) to believe that what they do and profess to believe represents the standard against which all others are to be measured.

Ludy's avatar

GA @Dr_Lawrence I admire the way you expressed ;)

Ludy's avatar


Ludy's avatar

Sorry, like I’ve said before, forgive the bad writing, I’m mexican and just been in US for 5 and a half so I am still learning! ;)

gailcalled's avatar

@Ludy:So far, so good.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Ludy ” like asking the owner to learn dog talking, cause that’s how I feel we’re the dogs and we need america, not the other way around,...” Leave it to many in Arizona they have tome wild ideal they don’t need you or anyone from your nation illegal or not because they don’t know who snuck in or who got here by visa. And yeah the ones who bypassed the visa process are actually breaking the law but then many Americans are actually benefiting more directly than indirect because they are here, and each time they go to the supermarket they benefit. So, Uncle Sam neads you and the others more than what is let on.

Ludy's avatar

I really don’t think so, if they all disapear america will find another way, that’s why I don’t aprove missing days of work to walk for the cause, I do not feel that is the right aproach to the situation, everybody: don’t get me wrong, I’m not racist with my own kind i just know who is holding the pan (mexican saying) I am so proud to be mexican but we can’t act like america is nothing without us, sorry.

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