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Speaking English

Updated on September 20, 2012

Teaking in Spongues

I owe my existence to migration, so I'm a fan.

From potatoes to pine trees, monoculture is neither robust nor interesting.

I think Australia is lucky in its multiculturalism.

That said, I'd like to talk language.

Nail Biting

Being of Mexican-American and Native American descent, Anjelah Johnson is well placed to do social commentary.

Millions have seen her nail salon routine (see below) an indication that it may ring true.

I'm interested in the last 15 seconds.

My wife says this certainly meshes with her experience. And our multilingual friend once scared the crap out of a rude nail technician by retorting in her language.

Past Tense

When Winston Churchill escaped from a Boer prison, his comrades told him in Latin when the coast was clear.

When I studied Indonesian at school, my colleagues enjoyed insulting other kids without their comprehension.

Words can be weapons.

So when dealing with suppliers I don't understand, I wonder what's being said.

For instance, when Chinese cleaners call back and forth across office spaces, are they saying:

'How nice of that chap to lift his chair!'


'These filthy copywriters can't even get a damn banana in a bin!'

Second Person

Excellent reasons for using one’s native tongue could include:

1. Immigration is too recent for English to be strong.

2. English is infernally difficult to learn at the best of times.

3. Conversing with compatriots is the sole solace in a rotten job.

4. In some contexts (like a French restaurant) it’s expected.

My Word

To give speakers the benefit of my doubt, I assume all the above (and more).

Yet when these reasons don’t seem to apply, I find speaking in tongues distracting, disconcerting and even offensive.

Especially when it’s loud, constant, done in front of me and accompanied by gestures of aggression or disgust.

And particularly when speakers have demonstrated that they can use English if they wish.

So is this my problem, or theirs?

Your Say

This is obviously a sensitive subject.

And I’ll brook no intolerance.

Yet I reckon it’s worth discussing.

Does a preference for English in business make me a racist client or a reasonable person?

Speak now, or forever hold your


What do YOU think?

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    • PaulHassing LM profile image

      Paul Hassing 6 years ago

      @sirkeystone lm: You sure are a man of many parts, James! Now I see why your lenses are so varied and interesting. Thank you yet again for adding value to this topic. :)

    • sirkeystone lm profile image

      sirkeystone lm 6 years ago

      I enjoy a good deal of listening to other languages. I have learned a tiny bit of Japanese from watching Anime, I have always had a strange attraction for the Russian language, I grew up around several native American Indian tongues (Hopi, Apache, Navaho, Mexican/Spanish and I am Cherokee/Scottish), my ancestry had given me a liking for all things Gaelic and Celt, I have many friends from my internet experiences that are of several of the Norwegian languages especially Dansk...

      But I am to much of an ADHD sufferer to stay focused on one language well enough to learn it. So I say thumbs up, and


    • PaulHassing LM profile image

      Paul Hassing 7 years ago

      @Ann Hinds: Many thanks for your comment. I appreciate it. :)

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 7 years ago from So Cal

      Never been good at holding my pax and I took years of Latin so I know what it means. It does not make you a racist client. It makes you a rational thinking adult who expects to be able to converse in the spoken language of the country you live in.