Tuesday, March 18, 2008

QOTD (Quote of the Day): Marshall McLuhan

This from an NP article by Robert Fulford: “Politics offers yesterday’s answers to today’s questions.”

Official bilingualism, anyone?

* * *

Canada's official bilingualism (French/English) seems increasingly irrelevant in today's English-centric, multicultural world. If Toronto were to be bilingual, it might, arguably, be English-Chinese rather than English-French. Ditto for Vancouver.

If you go around the world, the lingua franca that is spoken throughout, from east to west and from north to south, in airports and hotels, is English.


Croesus said...

You know, last year I was in France and Italy for vacation, and in S. America and East Asia for business (import/export). Didn't hear much English spoken. Anywhere.

France/Italy is in Europe, and I mostly hung out with a young crowd, but nobody was using English. And it wasn't like they really spoke it-- maybe a couple people had broken English abilities, but for the most part I had to struggle with my (inadequate) French or use a phrasebook.

And in South America? Forget it-- no English there. In Brazil it was ridiculous-- Portuguese the native tongue, and the second language everybody knew was Spanish, not English. In Chile, nobody really knew it. There some people who could read some English newspapers, but nobody used it.

And in E Asia, forget it. There were a couple people at the hotel who claimed to speak English when I was in Beijing, and they misunderstood everything I said. Even worse in Tokyo-- the hotel staff couldn't even pronounce a decent English word.

Look, when you actually work abroad, you come to realize that the vast majority of people who claim to speak English, basically can order a Big Mac and not much more. A few do know it for their jobs, but English isn't nearly as universal a language as people like to pretend.

Probably we'll all have to know Chinese in a few years. Maybe German in Europe if Germany continues on its path to EU ascendancy.

But English, while important, will be just another foreign language. Some will speak it, most won't. That's how it is now, and with the US economy going into a tailspin like this, and the foul-ups in Iraq, it's only gonna get worse in this regard.

RkBall said...

croesus: My experience has been different. I have found that in airports and hotels (at least the better ones), English is pretty much universal.

Another test would be book publication. Want to guess how many books there are published in English, versus the next language? I bet it wouldn't even be close.

Aviation -- my understanding is that English is the lingua franca of international aviation.

Chinese. I would bet that there are more Chinese in China learning English than there are Canadians, Americans and Europeans learning Chinese!

Technical Manuals: English dominates, I am sure.

Internet: English dominates. Consider eBay. If you want to reach a world market for your item, what language are you going to post it in?

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"