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December 06, 2006


Other Tom

When I entered the Naval Academy in 1958, my dad suggested I select French as my language inasmuch as it was the international language of diplomacy. He was correct at the time, but brother do I wish I had studied Spanish instead.


Well, other Tom, Spanish is noting but a regional language here in Europe and you can only use spanish in one of the European States (and there are million of Spaniards who prefer to speak Basque, Galizan, Catalan...). So keep that French.

As for Galizan, don't need to count it. Galizans feel comfortable with Portuguese (a "dialect" of Galizan, in fact), so there is not a need of translation actually.


When I lived there, I discovered the Dutch spoke so many languages well because their television was subtitled, not dubbed. Skiing with multinational friends in Switzerland it was delightful to converse with inter-translation between Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish... and Australian. ;-)

The Dutch are so fluent and smart they frequently find themselves in the secretariats of international associations. Their fluency gets them their and they are smart enough to realize that he who writes the minutes and correspondence runs the show.

Interested Conservative

That's an interesting observation in there from Nick Granville.

Ric Locke

...making the French want to scream, in any language.

My heart bleeds. No, I don't know how to say that in French.

If a speaker of some completely nonrelated language -- Cantonese, say -- babbles in an attempt to communicate with a native English speaker, the latter will say, "I'm sorry, I don't understand you. Can you try again?"

If a person who's actually studied French tries to communicate with a member of the self-declared French elite, and fails to get the accent on the right syllable of the third word, the Frenchman will raise his eyebrows, sniff, and walk off muttering about uneducated barbarians.

Guess who makes progress -- and gains influence. Effum.


Other Tom

Thanks, Tiago, but I live ten miles from the US-Mexican border, and there ain't a lot of French-speakers around here.

M. Murcek

Sounds like the story of the Tower of Babel...


MY FAIR LADY fans, will recognize this printed below as Henry Higgin's wonderfully funny song, "Why Can't The English Teach Their Children How To Speak", which criticizes the terrible local accents of ill-educated British folk, and also manages to mock the French and American's. A great tune:

Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?
This verbal class distinction by now should be antique.
If you spoke as she does, Sir,
Instead of the way you do,
Why you might be selling flowers too.

I beg your pardon!

An Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him
The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him.
One common language I'm afraid we'll never get,
Oh, why can't the English learn to set
A good example to people whose English is painful to your ears?
The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears.

There are even places where English completely disappears.
In America, they haven't used it for years!
Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?
Norwegians learn Norwegian, the Greeks are taught their Greek.
In France every Frenchman knows his language from "A" to "Zed"
The French never care what they do actually, as long as they pronounce it properly.

Arabian's learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning.
The Hebrews learn it backwards which is absolutely frightening.
But use proper English you're regarded as a freak.
Oh why can't the English,
Why can't the English,
Why can't the English learn to speak?

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