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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 3:44 pm 
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interrobang?! wrote:
Limone wrote:
It is interesting! I did degrees in both the US (I'm American) and Scotland, and when I got to Scotland I was sort of surprised at how the system works. But I think it actually makes more sense the way it's done there. In the US you typically have to take a series of "general education" courses during the first half of university unless you go to a conservatory-type school. The "general education" requirements vary from university to university, but usually it's 3-4 semesters worth of course work in a broad range of subjects (humanities, sciences, mathematics, sometimes foreign language, and sometimes even physical education!) The idea is to produce well-rounded graduates and to give first and second year students a chance to figure out what they want to focus on if they don't know coming in, which in principle seems alright, though to me at the time it just felt like an unnecessary extension of what you do in high school.

/end tangent

And, y'know, as much as I would never ever have wanted to take maths or physical education, I think the vague notions I have of the US uni system are more appealing in a way! By which I mean, as you say, to "give first and second year students a chance to figure out what they want to focus on" etc. Here, you're pretty much picking what you want to study when you are 16... who the fork knows anything about anything when they're 16? Ok, well, given what I've learned off some awesome teenage ppkers, loads seem to. But hell did I know!

//double end tangent ;)


It sounds ideal and its still hard when you are 18 or 20. I ended up going to 1 school, thinking I knew what I wanted to do, changed my mind at the end of year 1, started exploring year 2, transferred to a different university (my college was small, they didn't have my desired major), and it took me 5 years total to graduate, with no summer breaks. My situation was slightly different because of the type of school I chose initially. If I had chose a generic, public university initially, I would've been better off in being able to switch easily but I didn't so it was a headache.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 3:59 pm 
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linanil wrote:
It sounds ideal and its still hard when you are 18 or 20. I ended up going to 1 school, thinking I knew what I wanted to do, changed my mind at the end of year 1, started exploring year 2, transferred to a different university (my college was small, they didn't have my desired major), and it took me 5 years total to graduate, with no summer breaks. My situation was slightly different because of the type of school I chose initially. If I had chose a generic, public university initially, I would've been better off in being able to switch easily but I didn't so it was a headache.

I agree that it is hard to choose at that age, and I ended up switching my major course a couple of times too. But I feel like many students know at least roughly know what kind of studies they'd be inclined to do after high school though... it seems unlikely to me that someone who is deeply interested in the arts and humanities would switch to biology or something after taking an introductory class, but I suppose it happens sometimes. :) I had to take an introductory Earth Science class in my last semester of university because they had changed the general education requirements the year before I was set to graduate, which was sort of laughably pointless because at that point what was I going to do with it? Not that I don't enjoy fondling rocks.

Back to the original topic, it sucks when you get the "foreigner" treatment, especially after you've worked so hard to be able to converse in a language. Even when people try to be nice it sometimes comes off as rude, like the "Oh, you speak ____ so well for a foreigner!" thing. Like aelle said, it's a blow to the ego, but what can you do? I would just smile and ignore it unless someone's really being rude (in which case I would probably alert them to my not-so-fuzzy feelings, but I may be more confrontational than some.)


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:22 pm 
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I'm really curious here- when y'all (I guess I mean mostly those who are English as a first/only for the most part language) visit other countries, do you a) try and learn a bit before you go; b) get embarrassed about not being able to speak the country's language and learn the stock phrases for "do you speak English?"; c) Just speak English to everyone and hope for the best/brazen it out? Perhaps it's just my general inhibitions, but I really get put off from visiting other countries because I am so EMBARRASSED that I can't converse in the language of the places I want to visit. And, sure, most of the people in the countries I want to go to (mostly Germany, because I love it so damn much) speak perfect English, but I feel like a fool for being so monolingual. I try to learn things from dictionaries/phrasebooks and that's fine for the opener in a conversation... but phrasebooks et al can't account for what the other person is going to say back to you! I mean, it's purely my fault, but it's something I have a hard time dealing with and puts me off traveling for a lot of the time.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:28 pm 
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A different question in the same family line, I hope you do not mind. However this is something that bothers me...

Do you ever get asked what ethnicity you are? Do people make a big deal about it?

I have been asked what ethnicity I am on numerous occasions and usually just answer with "guess" because really is it anyone business? Most often people ask me rudely...

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:31 pm 
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I live in the US and in middle school we were required to take 2 years of foreign language (our choices were Spanish, French or German), 1 year of foreign language in high school and 1 semester of foreign language in college. I personally would want to learn at least a basic amount of a language before visiting a country that spoke a different language for a few reasons. It allows me to have a bit of independence and able to work things out for myself (for example, if I got lost in an area where there were no people), not having to rely on the chance that someone else may know my native tongue, and the last would be respect. I think it's really disrespectful to visit another country and expect them to understand you without you taking the responsibility of trying to learn at least some basic language. That being said, language is extremely difficult for some people and I would never hold it against someone if they couldn't fully grasp a language.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:35 pm 
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missmuffcake wrote:
A different question in the same family line, I hope you do not mind. However this is something that bothers me...

Do you ever get asked what ethnicity you are? Do people make a big deal about it?

I have been asked what ethnicity I am on numerous occasions and usually just answer with "guess" because really is it anyone business? Most often people ask me rudely...

I get asked that. Sometimes I'm asked nicely but a lot of the times I'm asked as if I'm some sort of alien creature from another planet and they're trying to figure me out. I guess they're just being curious and I like that they're not jumping to conclusions but sometimes it can be a little annoying because I don't think I'd ever ask someone else that. It's still better than the guy who saw my name and started speaking to me all in French and I just thought, "The only reason I can understand you is because I've studied French, not because I am French."

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:44 pm 
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interrobang?! wrote:
I'm really curious here- when y'all (I guess I mean mostly those who are English as a first/only for the most part language) visit other countries, do you a) try and learn a bit before you go; b) get embarrassed about not being able to speak the country's language and learn the stock phrases for "do you speak English?"; c) Just speak English to everyone and hope for the best/brazen it out? Perhaps it's just my general inhibitions, but I really get put off from visiting other countries because I am so EMBARRASSED that I can't converse in the language of the places I want to visit. And, sure, most of the people in the countries I want to go to (mostly Germany, because I love it so damn much) speak perfect English, but I feel like a fool for being so monolingual. I try to learn things from dictionaries/phrasebooks and that's fine for the opener in a conversation... but phrasebooks et al can't account for what the other person is going to say back to you! I mean, it's purely my fault, but it's something I have a hard time dealing with and puts me off traveling for a lot of the time.

I try to learn at least a few basic phrases, like the kinds of things you would use in shops and restaurants, but a lot of the time (especially with French) I am SO BAD AT IT that a the employees will start talking back to me in English. I think most people at least appreciate the effort though, and I have had a couple of experiences where people refused to serve me (or whoever I was with) if they didn't at least attempt to speak whatever the local language was.

Here's an embarrassing story for you: One time I was visiting Paris and all of the sudden got TERRIBLE menstrual cramps, so I went into the nearest pharmacy I could find to try to get some painkillers. Of course they were all behind the counter so I had to converse with the pharmacist and tell him what was wrong so he would give me pills. After studying French in school for a couple years and reading some phrasebooks do you think I know how to say "I have menstrual cramps, give me LOTS OF DRUGS" in French? Nope. So at first I asked him (in French) if he spoke English, he said no, so I did this crazy pantomime thing trying to act out what was wrong while my friend flipped through a phrasebook, in response to which the pharmacist just gave us a weird look. Finally I thought to say "Mal à la tête! Mal à la tête!" thinking that whatever drugs he would give for a headache would also be fine for menstrual cramps, and that worked! He took some paracetamol out, gave it to me, and in perfect English said "Take two of these every four hours."

But anyway, yeah, I hear you because I've felt the same way.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:44 pm 
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For a while I felt like a lot of people were asking me, "What are you?" Um, human?

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:47 pm 
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missmuffcake wrote:
A different question in the same family line, I hope you do not mind. However this is something that bothers me...

Do you ever get asked what ethnicity you are? Do people make a big deal about it?

I have been asked what ethnicity I am on numerous occasions and usually just answer with "guess" because really is it anyone business? Most often people ask me rudely...


Sometimes. Mostly people assume I am Hispanic and then it's Hispanic people who need help with something and just start speaking to me in Spanish. I then try to communicate in a mix of Italian and Spanish. It really doesn't bother me because they need help and if I can provide it, great!

Only once it bothered me, when during a meeting at work we split into groups, and we were supposed to get to know each other. This lady looked at me up and down and just stated "And you are South American". It was not what she said, but how she said it that bothered me.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:47 pm 
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interrobang?! wrote:
I'm really curious here- when y'all (I guess I mean mostly those who are English as a first/only for the most part language) visit other countries, do you a) try and learn a bit before you go; b) get embarrassed about not being able to speak the country's language and learn the stock phrases for "do you speak English?"; c) Just speak English to everyone and hope for the best/brazen it out? Perhaps it's just my general inhibitions, but I really get put off from visiting other countries because I am so EMBARRASSED that I can't converse in the language of the places I want to visit. And, sure, most of the people in the countries I want to go to (mostly Germany, because I love it so damn much) speak perfect English, but I feel like a fool for being so monolingual. I try to learn things from dictionaries/phrasebooks and that's fine for the opener in a conversation... but phrasebooks et al can't account for what the other person is going to say back to you! I mean, it's purely my fault, but it's something I have a hard time dealing with and puts me off traveling for a lot of the time.


The funny thing is I never thought of learning "do you speak english?" I guess I'm the wing it type person and figure that once something comes out of my mouth or they look at me, they'll figure I speak english or not.

My experience is I try to at least understand the language somewhat. I will buy a dictionary/phrasebook that helps. When I went to China, for months I listened to podcasts and did some elementary stuff to learn some Mandarin. This resulted in me being able to say thank you and hello (and understanding those 2 words). It also ended up with me being able to turn Mandarin into a senseless language to me to a language where I could understand what individual words were even if I didn't understand the words. In China, we had a translator with us most of the time though and the time when we didn't, our dictionary was priceless. In Beijing, many people in tourist areas spoke English.

I had also been in Greece, English is one of their national languages so it was really easy but I did learn some greek, especially the writing, which helped slightly. Very rarely did anyone speak Greek to me but it was awesome when they did.

In Germany/Switzerland, mostly everyone was able to speak english. In some smaller German towns, we encountered some people that didn't but it was all cool. The funniest thing in Switzerland was trying to understand the public transportation as they had a weird system where I went. The other thing in Germany/Switzerland that was weird (as an American) was sharing a table with someone. In Switzerland, I guess they had encountered enough Americans that the place I went to eat asked if it was alright if they sat someone with me. In Germany, it seemed more assumed.

And in Montreal, the most difficult thing was trying to understand spoken french because I was able to guess written french fairly well. When we were on the subway/metro type thing, it was the most difficult because I didn't want to miss our stop but I didn't see signs and only went by the announcer (that was in french). Luckily I guessed correctly :)

So overall, I think people will try to communicate with you however if you don't speak a common language. This may involve gestures, looking at a dictionary, pointing, etc.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:52 pm 
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missmuffcake wrote:
Do you ever get asked what ethnicity you are? Do people make a big deal about it?

I have been asked what ethnicity I am on numerous occasions and usually just answer with "guess" because really is it anyone business? Most often people ask me rudely...


It depends, white people think I'm white and never ask. I'll occasionally get asked by non-white people. I've heard everything, even middle eastern! I've never had someone ask me rudely though. I'm Native-American/Mexican on my mother's side and mostly anglo/some native american on my father's.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:54 pm 
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linanil wrote:
So overall, I think people will try to communicate with you however if you don't speak a common language. This may involve gestures, looking at a dictionary, pointing, etc.


When I was in Hong Kong, I got my period. I went to a supermarket inside a shopping center and found a middle aged lady that worked there. She didn't speak English, but I kind of pointed at my crotch and the color red, and she led to a huge display mountain in the middle of the store of sanitary napkins. She was so sweet, smiling non stop... :)


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:55 pm 
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i've only been overseas once, to italy. i learned a wee handful of phrases beforehand, and i picked up a bit more while i was there, but i had to speak english most of the time. i found that prefacing everything with "i'm sorry; i'm an american" made most conversations easier.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:57 pm 
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Angelina wrote:
When I was in Hong Kong, I got my period. I went to a supermarket inside a shopping center and found a middle aged lady that worked there. She didn't speak English, but I kind of pointed at my crotch and the color red, and she led to a huge display mountain in the middle of the store of sanitary napkins. She was so sweet, smiling non stop... :)

Another story about menstruation and awkward nonverbal communication! I guess what we can take away from all this, if nothing else, is to bring extra pads and painkillers with you on vacation.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:02 pm 
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no kidding! I had to go to a store in Argentina and buy pads as well. Luckily I found a big grocery store and found the aisle fairly easily.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:12 pm 
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Limone wrote:
"Mal à la tête! Mal à la tête!"

Ha ha! One of the few things I remember from French classes is how to sing 'heads, shoulders, knees, and toes (knees and toes!)
So I'd be totally on that, if necessary.
Tête, épaules, genoux et pieds, genoux et pieds.

I was in the Basque region of Spain once with a pal and by crivens we could not find out how to ask "do you have saline solution for our contacts?" in a chemists' shop. That was not in our phrasebook for sure.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:58 pm 
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interrobang?! wrote:
I'm really curious here- when y'all (I guess I mean mostly those who are English as a first/only for the most part language) visit other countries, do you a) try and learn a bit before you go; b) get embarrassed about not being able to speak the country's language and learn the stock phrases for "do you speak English?"; c) Just speak English to everyone and hope for the best/brazen it out? Perhaps it's just my general inhibitions, but I really get put off from visiting other countries because I am so EMBARRASSED that I can't converse in the language of the places I want to visit. And, sure, most of the people in the countries I want to go to (mostly Germany, because I love it so damn much) speak perfect English, but I feel like a fool for being so monolingual. I try to learn things from dictionaries/phrasebooks and that's fine for the opener in a conversation... but phrasebooks et al can't account for what the other person is going to say back to you! I mean, it's purely my fault, but it's something I have a hard time dealing with and puts me off traveling for a lot of the time.

When I went to Peru some years ago I took basic Spanish lessons before I went (my sister was living there and getting married: we had the benefit of a year's notice). I have to say I think it made all the difference. Just being able to give basic directions in a taxi, order stuff in restaurants and make myself understood in shops was really, really helpful. Also, even though my Spanish was very, very basic and my accent was apalling, every single one of the Peruvians I met was SO impressed that a gringo was even trying to speak their language, that they went out of their way to be friendly and helpful.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:38 pm 
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linanil wrote:
I've heard everything, even middle eastern! I've never had someone ask me rudely though.



I get middle eastern...people come up and start speaking Farsi to me and I just say "I am not Assyrian!"...They usually say something like sorry and it is OK. My step-father who is Assyrian and from Iraq gets to hear all the racist bull crepe because people think he is just some 'white dude'...

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:23 am 
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interrobang?! wrote:
Limone wrote:
"Mal à la tête! Mal à la tête!"

Ha ha! One of the few things I remember from French classes is how to sing 'heads, shoulders, knees, and toes (knees and toes!)
So I'd be totally on that, if necessary.
Tête, épaules, genoux et pieds, genoux et pieds.

I was in the Basque region of Spain once with a pal and by crivens we could not find out how to ask "do you have saline solution for our contacts?" in a chemists' shop. That was not in our phrasebook for sure.

The Québécois version of that song is tête, épaules, genoux, orteils! Which is clearly a superior translation. :)

I feel some anxiety/embarrassment about not knowing the language of the place I'm visiting. It even goes so far a to make me shy ordering in a Mexican restaurant in say, California, because I'm not super familiar with Spanish and my pronunciation makes me feel ignorant. Incidentally, the place I've felt the most self-conscious about my language skills (or lack thereof) is in my own country (in Montreal) and using a language I am supposed to be fluent in (French).

When I travelled through Japan I got nervous when I went to the smaller and less-touristy towns, because my language skills were rudimentary at best, but I gradually got more comfortable with the pointing and signalling thing as most of the people I encountered were extremely gracious in putting up with my ineptitude.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:37 am 
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I try to learn some basic things like, "Thank you", "Please", "Hello", because I think that goes a long way to show that I'm trying and I'm not just expecting everyone to converse with me in English. I picked up Spanish pretty quickly in Mexico (just words, not sentences), so I spoke as much Spanish as I reasonably could, and shyly spoke English the rest of the time.

I've never been to Europe and am going this year (See you there, 'bang?!) and I'm kind of worried about how that will work out. Especially since part of my trip will be in Hungary, and I'll be visiting with family who don't know a lick of English and I only know a few phrases in Hungarian. That should be interesting.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:41 am 
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Always learn the word for bathroom though. Always.

And generally, if you are in a foreign country and need to go, look for a McDonald's. this probably won't be helpful in less populated areas but I've peed in many McDonald bathrooms.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:09 am 
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I've always followed the rule: learn to say please, thank you, bathroom, and beautiful at the very minimum. i like to know more, but those are necessary.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:06 am 
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interrobang?! wrote:
Were they actually using Burns as a way to teach English specifically, Gulliver, or just... teaching Burns?
Teaching English. I think it was a "variety of English", but I think the general consensus in academic linguistics is that Scots is not English. It's Scots, a language that is closely related to, but distinct from, English. It's like German/Hochdeutsch and Schwytzerdütsch; related but distinct.

On an unrelated note, I want to study another language. Swedish or Dutch? I think Dutch would be quite easy weil ich Deutsch kenne und die zwei sprachen sind relativ ähnlich, on the other hand I want to be able to read in Swedish eftersom Tove Jannson är en favorit författere till mig.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:34 pm 
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paprikapapaya wrote:
I've never been to Europe and am going this year (See you there, 'bang?!) and I'm kind of worried about how that will work out.

An a howp ye breuk whit ahm sain, ma wee dautie! ;)

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 4:35 am 
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Dying from Nooch Lung
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Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 1:50 pm
Posts: 3243
Location: The Bene
People here like to switch immediately to English when they hear you speaking Dutch with an accent. I try not to let it get to me, because I know that it's mostly well intended, and they're either trying to accommodate me, or just enjoying the opportunity to speak English, but sometimes it's really irritating, especially when you get the sense that someone thinks they're doing you this amazing favor by switching to English. FFS, I've lived here for 18 years, I followed a Masters program entirely in Dutch. You're not doing me any favors, especially when your English is worse than my Dutch.

Very few people have been deliberately insulting like that horrible woman you described in your original post, Torque. One thing I have noticed, though, is that when I speak my American-tinted Dutch, some people treat me like I'm either stupid or a child. I always had this feeling, but thought I was being paranoid until my partner confirmed my suspicions when he saw it happening at the hospital. I was talking to a doctor and technician about a medical procedure and they were both really patronizing. The next time I spoke to the doctor, though, I asked my questions in English and he treated me like an intelligent adult. Now I use English when I feel like I need to get the upper hand in a situation and then "kindly" switch to Dutch when the person I'm speaking to seems to be struggling with an English word/phrase.

This whole thing is going to take on a new element soon as I move to Flanders. People there seem to hear my accent as Dutch (ie. Netherlands Dutch vs. Flemish Dutch) rather than American, which carries a whole 'nother set of baggage. And then there's Brussels, where, even though it's officially a bilingual city, I've discovered that if I speak English, I'm treated a lot more nicely than if I speak Dutch. I really need to work on my (long-forgotten, high school) French if I want to look for work there.

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