Friday, June 20, 2008

You speak the English?

57 comments:

Scavinger said...

I think you need the upper right corner mapped to "Multiple Expatriate".

talljay said...

Mucho gusto. :)

carrie said...

Tres bien.

Anonymous said...

Har, har, har, I get it. We Americans are culturally hegemonic even in our travels. This is the most original point you've ever made.

Gema L. said...

I try it!

Chaz said...

Hey, if they expect me to grace their country with my presence, the least they could do is learn to communicate with me before I arrive!

[/sarcasm]

Anonymous said...

In our defense, it's hard to learn another language when you think it's a waste of your time.

Frank Sands said...

Dear anonymous: No learning is a waste of time.

E você nunca saberá se estão te xingando pelas costas ;-)

Samantha said...

Lol. I would add a 3rd axis labeled "geography knowledge".

Kevin said...

Course it doesn't help when you learn a language no one else knows -- e.g., the part in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where you see Marcus walking through a Middle-eastern street saying "Does anyone here speak English? Or how about Ancient Greek?"

Jerm said...

Well, if you speak English really slow and LOUD...isn't that the same as speaking someone else's native language?

Pascal Germroth said...

ah, shouldn't the upper-left corner read "British English" and the mid-to-lower-left corner read "American English", to indicate british imperialism (been to lots o' countries, you know) and the much laughed about american lack of geographic knowledge (never leaving the country, well, it's big enough, anyway).

and now let the flame wars begin (I'm french btw, heh)

Anonymous said...

I only found Indexed a few weeks ago, and I read the whole archive. A lot of your ideas are really clever, insightful and funny.
But I am SICK of being blamed for everything because I am an American, so FORGET your comic. I will never come back. I am not particularly proud of my country right now, but I am tired of being pigeonholed and I won't come back. See you in the coming apocalypse, hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

As an American, I'm pretty sure we should be blamed for everything.

American who's been to seven countries and speaks five languages. said...

But what about the Americans who don't leave home? There are a great, great many of them.

Nathan said...

I love Indexed. However, mocking Americans is cliched these days. While some of the mockery isn't without merit, America has been, on the whole, good for the world. So go pick on some dictator for a change.

For those who think I'm being thin-skinned, consider the situation of a child living in America today. Almost every element of pop culture routinely tells him, not as a proposition, but as a thing assumed known by all, that his country is fat, arrogant, wasteful, and destructive. Little mention is made of its many virtues and accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

Haha - mocking americans is only cliche for americans. Never gets old for the rest of us!

soo.

an American capable of self-reflection said...

For those Americans sick of being "pigeonholed" as "fat, arrogant, wasteful and destructive" -- we should work to embody the positive change that we would like to see in the world. Or, in this case, in the world's impression of us!

Anonymous said...

Oh, then vote for Obama :) Make a change in the fat, arrogant and destructive course you have taken by voting Bush as president :)
[/end of political obnoxiousness]

Anonymous said...

wow. i can't belive that many people flipped out over a notecard :)

come on people..relax!

change-man said...

Lovely. Reminds me of a joke...

What do you call someone who can speak 2 languages? (Bilingual)

What do you call someone who can only speak one language? (American)

lol

Anonymous said...

Besides adding "Globetrotter" in the upper right, "Flowers in the Attic" or "Feral Child" or "Pet" should be in the lower left.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the point of America to let people do whatever they want? Let 'em stay home if that floats their boat. Plus going from Spain to Russia is like car tripping from Texas to New York. It's a proximity issue people!

Missbossy said...

Ummm... I believe that less than half of Americans actually have passports. So that well travelled American is not a typical representative.

"It has long been known that fewer Americans have passports, and US citizens travel less than their counterparts in other developed economies."

http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=6553

A Paperback Writer said...

I'm an American. I've been to 22 different countries, can speak 3 languages in varying fluency, can read another 2 languages -- and I DO have to explain Americans' isolationism to other people a great deal. I try to get people from other countries to realize that America is BIG and we can travel a lot and never leave it. But they still cannot believe our arrogance in thinking that we need not bother to learn even one other language of our choice.
And to the anonymous coward and xenophobe who threw a tantrum on comment #13:
why don't you move to LaVerkin, Utah, where they outlawed the United Nations? You'd probably feel at home there....

Anonymous said...

Americans are not stupid

(Type that on youtube and see what i'm talking about. If you don't think it's funny, you're problably american)

Frank Sands said...

I think one of the objectives of any art is to provoke self-reflection and discussion. And this post has achieved both points with flyign colors. This is why I *will* be coming back, always, even if sometimes I don't agree with what is being said.

Anonymous said...

To Frank Sands,

I was being sarcastic. Personally, I speak English, Spanish and Arabic. I can read some Portuguese and French. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Yes, U.S.Americans are shockingly ethnocentric. More so than other nationalities in my experience (and I've been around).
Yes, the fact that their country is huge and their paid holiday tiny counts as an excuse for those who prefer to neither leave nor learn other languages.
No, it doesn't count as an excuse for those who visit e.g. Europe and show zero motivation for learning about the culture there, let alone languages.
Yes, this is true for a large proportion of Europeans travelling within Europe as well.
So let's all chill.

Somebody said this should be about the English who have been all sorts of places as a colonial power and made little to no effort to understand what was going on around them there. Yep, true.

Samuel said...

America is a pretty large place. States are about the size of a European nation, but unlike Europe, driving across the state line does not mean meeting people who speak a different language. Speaking a second language is far less valuable in the US than in many places overseas.

Black Swan said...

Learning another language broadens the mind. I know learning French improved my native English at least ten-fold. Why? I don't know maybe because I understand grammar more fluidly now.

Not only is this strip funny it somewhat happened to me in a roundabout way. Althought English is my tongue the people I met in New York didn't know where New Zealand even was and were genuinlly shocked shocked that we spoke English.

Also you Yanks, the reason why people dislike you is because you can't take any stick. You take it so seriously and literally that you are offended beyond all reason. Take yourself less seriously.

Shell said...

Canada is bigger by land mass than America is and yet people never seem to make the assumption that Canadians are not well travlled or are ignorant about the world about them. Wonder why that is...

Stephanie said...

I've grown up with my dad in the military but he never got stationed over seas so most of my time has been spent in America. A lot of schools do require that students take two years worth of another language. At my school the only choice was Spanish. So, I know some Spanish but will never be fluent in the language. I think for a lot of kids that go through that in highschool, they do not choose to carry on with the learning because they feel they will never need it, they feel they will never got over seas or to a place that will use that language. For most of them, that's more than likely true.

I never thought I'd be able to get away from the mainland to see Hawaii, much less another country! I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Hawaii and live in Germany for three months. I took a few classes with my mom and learned a bit of German but again won't be fluent in the language.

I don't feel it's necessary to learn another language to fluency, much less have it expected of me just because I'm going on vacation/holiday. A lot of Americans will never travel abroad, either because they cannot financially or because they don't have the desire. For those that do, I am sure plenty of them buy one of those little travelers books with important phrases and words, at least with those they make the attempt. It's what my mom and I did when we first got to Germany.

LotharBot said...

1) Canada is big by landmass, but the vast majority of Canadians live within 50 miles of another country; the Yukon isn't exactly populous. Many Americans live hundreds of miles from the nearest foreign country.

2) Canada has a fairly large French-speaking population. The US has several small populations that speak other languages, but which one in particular depends on which part of the country you're in. There aren't a lot of Chinese immigrants in Florida or Cubans in Washington State.

3) The US has several different cultures that share a not-quite-common language. How many of you who are not from the US know the difference between, say, Georgia and Minnesota, or New York and Oregon? Do you know about different dialects between those states? So much for "learning about the culture"...

4) it's typical for Americans to learn at least one foreign language in high school... but there just isn't that much opportunity OR need to use it, for many of the reasons noted above, so it's often forgotten. Ragging on Americans for not being fluent in foreign languages is like ragging on the grocery store checker for not remembering high school Algebra. The skills decay if they're not used.

Finally, it's childish to insult someone just because you know something they don't. "Oh, those ignorant Americans, hardly any of them speak foreign languages!" is just as childish as "Oh, those ignorant people on indexed, hardly any of them know [Chaos Theory / Evolutionary Genetics / Origami]!"

cfern.canto said...

Mocking Americans may be clichéd, but people will still go nuts all over it.

Rydia said...

Lotharbot just about covers the topic. Also, if you can remember from history class (you do know more than a pitiful U.S. Citizen right?) most of the European countries used the U.S. as a human garbage bin during the early 20th and late 19th centuries.
All the working classes and "unwanted persons" were shuffled out. And look what grew up?

It reminds me of grammar school. No one likes the strange kid who doesn't quite fit in. So everyone rejects him and feels superior. Later, at High School graduation, he's Valedictorian, has become handsome, and has "too many" scholarships. Everyone secretly hates him and gossips about why he shouldn't be at the top; But everyone also secretly wants to trade places with him.

Oh, by the way, aun que soy estadounidense, he vivido la majoria de mi vida afuera. Y no, mi papa no es militar; Solamente nos gusta viajar.
No sea celoso.

Nathan said...

I wish I were as articulate as lotharbot, and I home I'm less consumed with misplaced pride than "an American capable of self-reflection." Criticism of America, where deserved, is healthy, but there's presently a lack of balance between pompous reminders of our faults (just watch any episode of the Daily Show, for example) and appreciation of the virtues of our country. America is a center of freedom, industriousness and innovation, and usually first on the scene when another country suffers some natural disaster. We also tend toward gluttony, greed, and ignorance of the rest of the world. It is a good but imperfect country--and we shouldn't forget the good part. Real self-reflection requires perspective, not reflexive self-flagellation.

Anonymous said...

Please, take yourself less seriously. The world doesn't need your lack of humor.

Anonymous said...

That's just wrong.

In surveys of hoteliers, Americans are viewed highly, e.g. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/08/19/TR8TRGM5T.DTL

One of the reasons is that Americans attempt to learn some words of the local dialect and sample the culture of the place they are visiting more than travelers from other parts of the world.

Dawn said...

As the world shrinks and flattens more and more, Americans will probably wish they spoke, oh say, Chinese, Indian, Spanish, Russian....

Anonymous said...

Y'all are arguing about the wrong things. By pulling out an old and tired observation, and not doing anything creative with it, the real argument becomes:

Has Indexed 'jumped the shark'?
or
Does Jessica need a vacation?

Nicola said...

Hey, You know, here in Italy we think is of no use to learn foreign languages 'cause everyone can understand us by the way we move our hands and we "grimace"...
So, stay cool... everyone love to pigeonhole what he/she knows...
Think at this: we have Berlusconi again (and a lot of rubbish everywhwere!)
Lovely blog Thanks'!

Nicola (Italy)

ripi said...

totalmente de acuerdo

Kat said...

I would just like to point out to dawn that "Indian" is not a language. I don't mind rants, because I think there have been a lot of good points made on both sides of the argument on this comment board, but if you're going to make statements, know what you're talking about.

There are 22 official languages of India proper, and none of them are "Indian."

Plus, to add to the conversation, I'm not sure learning languages is as important as having a general respect for any and all cultures you encounter on your travels. It's nice to know words and phrases and to try out things, and people are generally very happy to see you try, but I don't mind when people come to the US and don't speak English; the impression I get from people in other countries is that they don't mind if you don't speak their languages as long as you try new things, respect them, and have a good time doing it.

Generally, I think tourists and expatriates from all over the world can be accused of not being respectful, not just Americans. And just as many from all over the world can be credited with being respectful.

chucknasty said...

the comments from people that are offended by this make it even funnier.
sadly, I don't think you were joking so much as making a solid observation.

Amazing said...

As an American, I agree with your comic.

Unfortunately, I don't fit your mold. But most do.

Mona said...

To the person who said that criticizing Americans is a cliché: it is NOT. I'm an American and I don't think anyone can stress enough how damn ignorant we are about life outside the US.

On a different note, I think the dot for Americans is too high up the y axis. Having just spent the year traveling around the world, I can tell you that there are a lot of American tourists in Europe in the summer, but not beyond summer and not beyond Europe. I'll tell you who's everywhere: Indians, Japanese, Europeans.

Dawn said...

I stand corrected Kat. That was quite a huge blunder!

Dawn said...

Were you able to travel in Turkey Mona? I've been twice and absolutely love the country, the people, the food...dreaming of going back soon.

Anonymous said...

Frank Sands, há sempre quem saiba =P

fluidly unsure said...

I can't travel beyond Southern California now so I decided to learn the people and not just the architecture. The music, dance, art, and food are something I can get to some degree from abroad.

When I am able to travel I'm looking forward to India and Uzbekistan. In both cases I love the music, the dancing, the difference from what I'm used to, and (in India's case) the contrasting life-styles.

fluidly unsure said...

Another thing:

Like Kat mentioned, India has a very confusing landscape when it comes to languages. But from what I can tell they are mixtures of Arabian/Urdu and Sans-Skrit. IIUC; if you learn those two then you can understand most others. Most of my friends have at least five languages under their belt to some degree: local, Hindi, some Sans-Skrit, some Urdu, and English.

Flashx11 said...

I think one important point is that it doesn't really work to say 'most Americans'. If you someone says "All Americans," they're proved wrong quickly, because everyone has their own behavior, their own tastes in food/culture/language, and everyone certainly isn't the same. But if that someone, especially an American, says "Most Americans," they're implicitly dismissing the existence of any American who doesn't show these traits and/or dismissing any counter-argument about people who don't show these traits.

The real matter, though, is: "Are Americans (or any other group) just a set of people who are interchangeable for each other, displaying no significant traits and not acting as individuals, to the point that any individual can be judged by a judgment of the group? No.

Also, note that many countries have made it easier for Americans/English-speakers to visit them. Why? It's much easier to learn about the history of a place when you aren't having to translate back to your own language and double-check that you heard/translated correctly!

Rahul Rishi said...

good one :)

Ben said...

air travel is a terrible thing for the environment. I'm sure people can live a fulfilling life without gettign on a plane every year. Also, not everyone has the cash.

I'm Australian, our country is close to as big as the U.S. and we all travel too much. (we're not fantastic with the languages either, but K. Rudd has mandarin down.)

Anonymous said...

I think that America (or a big city in the US)is the *perfect* place to learn languages and experiment because there is a huge number of international people here.

I come from Malaysia, where it is useful to know Malay, English and Mandarin. I come to the states and meet so many people from all over the world here, I was able to practice my German that I studied in Malaysia but never had the chance to use it. I am currently learning Spanish and Greek. But I also learned a couple of Romanian and Polish phrases which I use to say to my co-workers.

Amy said...

I once told the bilingual, trilingual, American joke to a German friend. When I got to the punchline and asked her what you call a person who speaks one language, she yelled "FRENCH!" I realized she was right and I needed instead to ask about a person who "knows" only one language, not "speaks."

 
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