Friday, March 18, 2005

Language Barrier

I got to spend some time in London the is past week. Now: going on the trip in the first place made me exceptionally poor, so I became a fantastic budget traveler, taking on London while only spending about $250 over 6 days. But in doing this I got to spend most of my time walking around London, jumping into small eateries, seeing how they develop their service industry as compared to us.

The first thing I realized is how easy it was to communicate no matter what language you spoke. Blame it on the EU because this place comfortably caters to French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese and what have you. Then there are places here and there that speak chinese, japanese, hindi and more! Going into a store and seeing a rather small chinese woman trying to speak Spanish to a customer made me think about those barriers we have erected in the US against language. Being multilingual is such an advantage that few seem to take advantage of. Defaulting into English seems to be too easy, and when you see all these exclusionary 'nativists' promoting English as the only language it just makes you see how incredibly unattractive the US must be to foreign travelers. Oh wait! They already are familiar with English because outside of our exceptionalistic attitude other cultures do learn multiple tongues!

Is there a moral of the story? I don't know. Perhaps just ranting. But doesn't it seem odd that other places can be so open to different people, and America is so static? Far from the center of London you can find money exchange places, or at least the values listed on windows of banks. Here you barely see anything besides the sightseeing tour bus that passes by my window every few days.

It would be nice to see us jump into the 21st century. We'll see if things change.


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