Tha Language Barrier

Every country on earth has minorities. In every country there are people who don’t know the language well, who are living where they are because of necessity or family connections or a job. People don’t appreciate just how hard it is to live somewhere and not know the language. Working at the credit card company, I’ve found just how easily affection springs up whenever someone hears someone speaking their own language. For one, there are a lot of Russian speakers at work, and they’re almost always to be found during their breaks to be speaking with each other in Russian, even though all of them speak perfect Hebrew. But it’s irresistible to speak your home language while around others who know it.

Another example of this is how English-speaking clients react when they find out I can speak English. My bosses recently realized that I’m American and have since been foisting every English speaking client they can upon me. I don’t really mind though, because the rush of gratitude I can hear in these clients voices at being addressed in soft English, rather than garish and barking Hebrew, is a reward unto itself.

This raises a common question though – if you’ve moved to a country and are living there permanently, isn’t it part of your responsibility to learn the language? Or should you be allowed to expect that you’ll always find someone who speaks your language to help translate things for you?

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7 thoughts on “Tha Language Barrier

  1. great question. I think you should learn the language. I mean why would a person move to another country in the first place. A friend once told me you can always change jobs, it’s a lot harder to change your home, or find a place you’ll love calling home.

  2. thesleepingfox says:

    I definitely agree, it should be a priority to learn the language of the country you are living in. My family is Russian, living in America, and I know so many other Russian families who have lived in the US for upwards of 15 years and still do not know how to speak English. I’m honestly appalled that after so long, they refuse to learn English, because they have made a life for themselves in the Russian communities in the area. They rely solely on other Russians to get jobs where they can speak Russian, go to small grocery stores run by Russians, here you can find Russians all over the place. I don’t agree with this at one bit. My family and I busted our butts to learn English so we could thrive in this country, to fit in and become a part of the culture, it’s such a pity that others can’t/won’t do the same.

  3. I feel like the commenters above. I do think everyone should speak the same language. Just as much to unite as anything. I know it would be really hard to move to a country that you didn’t speak the language but if you had to do that, you’d start to feel more at home if you could converse with everyone else and not have to depend on shopping and doing all your stuff at certain places just because of language.

    As a side, even in the same language, some words and expressions mean different things. Most of my family lives in Canada and certain things mean different things. I said something once to someone and they took it very offensive and it was a very friendly phrase here.

  4. If I were living in another country, where the first language wasn’t English, I would want to learn the language, so that I could understand them… not necessarily so that they would understand me…

  5. Learning the language in which you live opens up so much. Although, in some countries, like when I am in Italy, it doesn’t matter how well I know Italian they will always consider me a “straniera” (foreign, particularly blond and easy girl) so there I found, the only way to get rid of sleazy Italians, was to speak Swedish…ironic.

    Anyway, I wrote about languages today on my blog if you are interested:

    http://inwardsun.wordpress.com/2009/01/16/swenglish/

  6. Sarah says:

    I would for sure learn the language even though It would most likely take me a while. At least most other places in the world have a good percentage of english speaking people and I wouldn’t be completely lost. I really think that learning a foriegn language from a young age should be more emphasised in our schools here in America. I didn’t get the chance to lean another language until 8th grade and then never had to use it.

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