Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Barack Obama and the Ugly American

Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama has compared Americans unfavorably with Europeans, which seems to be a recurring theme among Democrats in general. This time it has to do with language. When Europeans come to America, says Obama, they speak English along with their French and German. But when Americans go to Europe, all they can say is "Merci beaucoup." I guess that assumes they all go to France when they go to Europe. But be that as it may, the point seems to be, Europeans can speak the language of the country they visit, while Americans can't.

That is not the case. In fact, it is a ridiculous argument. An indication of this is given in Obama's further corollary to this supposed American language deficit: America doesn't need an official language, because immigrants all automatically learn English; rather, Americans should all teach their children Spanish. Perhaps Obama should also tell Europeans the same thing. Because I have yet to encounter a non-Spanish European who could also speak Spanish.

When Europeans visit Spain (which they do in droves), do they speak Spanish? Perhaps the equivalent of "Merci beaucoup" but not much more than that. Not to mention when they visit Latin America. What language do they speak then? English. How chauvinistic! And how about when Europeans visit Portugal, or Denmark, or the Netherlands, or Poland, or the Czech Republic, or Italy, or.... What language do they speak? Either their native German or French (if that's where they're from), or ... English.

I live in a border town in the Netherlands -- Germany is just a few kilometers up the road. What do Germans speak when they come over here? Dutch? HA HA HA. No dice. They speak German, and they expect you to understand it. Or at least they hope you do.

At least Americans have the decency to speak English....

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