A Simple Observation on Language

In my home country, people expect everybody to speak the native tongue (i.e. English).

“Why put signs up in Spanish? This is America!”

Understood. People take it to another (unnecessary) level, but point taken. I too agree people should learn to speak the language of the country they live in. Even if just visiting a foreign land for a few days, one should certainly pick up a couple of phrases—if for nothing else—to show a little respect.

How about in China? Do you people scream, “speak Chinese! This is China!”? No. Quite the opposite. In fact, for foreign guests, it is generally expected that they cannot speak a syllable of Chinese. Even the foreigners living in China for many years are not “supposed” to speak Chinese. “This is our language.”

These two patriotic countries view foreigners speaking the native language differently.

I’ve been living in China for ten years now; I am fluent in Chinese. When I speak with local residents who cannot speak English, they generally appreciate that I have taken the interest and time to learn their language; this is true. However, some of the more educated citizens who can speak English often seem annoyed when I converse in Chinese.

“Speak English!”

“Why? This is China. The national language is Chinese. In the U.S. I speak English, in China a speak Chinese.”

But, this is just a simple observation.



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