Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Language Learning and American Expats

For a long time Americans have been tagged as a culture who refuses to learn a second or third language because they think everyone else in the world should speak English.

In an article I was reading today they say that the amount of Americans immigrating to other countries is growing and there are now 5.25 million living abroad.

I was happy to see that there are a lot of Americans living in countries such as Costa Rica, Russia, Brazil, and Italy where English is not so commonly spoken. So I do have to doubt what it is said about Americans not wanting to learn foreign languages. I believe that everyday more and more US citizens are becoming more open to other cultures and therefore other languages. Maybe, as the article says the US is no longer a place where everyone wants to live in and even its citizens are starting to consider other countries for better professional opportunities and a better lifestyle.

In my case, and talking about Mexico specifically, English is the foreign language to learn, we think that no matter where you go, if you speak English, you will be able to survive. So in a way, it is the same kind of mentality Americans have about their language, with the only difference that for us it is our second language and speaking our native tongue already puts us in a more advantageous position.

It has happened to me and I am sure this is true for a lot of people that when you travel you see the typical American speaking English and expecting everyone to understand what he is saying. This attitude is the very reason why when visitng some countries in Europe you find that people are much friendlier if you speak to them in Spanish (or any other language) than if you do in English. Unfortunately, it is just natural to the human race to generalize and tag an entire culture based on just one or two experiences.

It seems like things are changing and the US is not the only land of opportunities anymore. And it seems like Americans are starting to realize this as well. It is nice to see that the way Americans think about other cultures and other languages is changing, too. I just hope they embrace multiculturalism even more and they don't continue to take foreign language learning off their school curricula.
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