I overheard the following in the parking lot after dropping off my kids at school this morning.
One woman was telling a few others about what her son, who was clearly in the military, was currently up to. She said: “he is taking language studies classes. I don’t really want to know what language he is learning, I just hope it’s some form of American.”
I mean seriously. WHAT?!!
I have written before about the fact that you can’t “speak European” as it relates to marketing in Europe. Just because it’s sort of a governing unit around the EU, languages that have been around for millenniums don’t just go away as a result. But the this was a new one for me.
Just what does “Some form of American” even mean?! I live in Boston, is our remarkable ability to forget to use the letter “R” a dialect of American? (BTW, we don’t use turn signals either, but that is a different post!) Is there a new language being created in the south that we northerners need to learn? My kids are fortunate to go to a school that is represented by a true “salad bowl” of cultures from Indian, to Chinese, to Hispanic, to Greek, to Italian and on and on. Are their classmates native tongues now some form of American too?
I really was stunned, and in fact, I still am.
In this day and age when companies routinely translate their products into 100 plus languages, when Facebook supports countless languages across its 500+million users, when Google Translate can instantly make pages in 60+ languages readable, and when you can tweet what you had for breakfast in 6 languages today, probably 100 by tomorrow, do we really need to figure out how to speak American too?
For me, I take this as a reminder that I have been blessed to live and work in a global world. I have had the chance to experience many different cultures first-hand and learned to understand how cultural nuance plays a significant role in both communication and in understanding. Not everyone is so lucky.