Thursday, June 25, 2009

English (and Football) Only

What do you call a person who speaks two languages?


So what if that person speaks three languages?

That's easy right, trilingual.

So what do you call someone who only speaks one language?

The answer: An American.

Sorry for the corny joke but that one has been going around in my bilingual circle of friends for years and there's more than a bit of truth to it. We Americans are notorious in our stubbornness to speak English and only English, which is a disservice to us all, but particularly our kids.

When it comes to opportunity these days, speaking additional languages is a major advantage. To illustrate that fact, all you need to do is visit practically any service related industry and look who's the people are who are front and center. In many cases it's a bilingual English/Spanish speaker because hey, companies aren't stupid and definitely understand who their customers are and which customers they would like to have. In a lot of cases, those new customers speak Spanish.

Not to say they don't speak or will never speak English, but you reach people where they are at. That's why I make it a point to practice my Spanish with whomever allows me to inflict it on them. In fact, if there's anyone out there with a similar mindset let me know in the comments and we'll figure out a way to practice together.

A lot of people feel that English is the unofficial global language but I disagree. The true international language that most Americans also don't speak is soccer, or more accurately, football. I'm a big fan of the game, especially the internatinal tournaments pitting national teams, one of which is going on right now. It's the Confederations Cup being held in South Africa which will also host the World Cup next year. The American team is doing quite well in this tournament, so far advancing through group play and defeating the mighty Spanish team today to earn a spot in Sunday's championship game.

Quite an accomplishment though you wouldn't know that living here in the States. Anywhere else such an achievement would be cause for celebrating in the streets, but not here. Most of us just don't pay any attention to soccer, I mean football, at all. Just like our inability to carry on a conversation in anything other than English, we are pretty much incapable of conversing in this global language of sport as well, and I think that's a shame.

So in addition to pummeling anyone who'll engage me with my Spanish, I'm trying to do the same in regard to soccer. The question is whether anyone's listening.



jobsanger said...

I also love the international game of soccer. I even stayed up late last night to watch a replay of the U.S.-Spain game.
And you're right, it's a shame most Americans don't realize what a huge accomplishment that was for our national team!

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