Monday, December 17, 2007

Multilingualism

This recent Wondermark got me thinking. While I was in college, it was a real pet peeve of mine when people would strike up conversations in a shared foreign language, effectively excluding non-speakers from the conversation. This struck me at the time as extremely rude. Later, while studying at a dedicated language school, there was a sort of etiquette for using foreign languages for private asides; for example, using eye contact and body language to keep any non-speakers engaged (and to assure them the side conversation wasn't at their expense). Now out of that environment, I find myself with sarcastic comments to make and nobody to make them to without resorting to murmuring and whispering, which now seems so crass. It's so much more satisfying to make your comments loud, clear, and incomprehensible.

2 comments:

Shane said...

Yeah, I've lived my entire life with the mentality that Chinese was for making rude observations of an oblivious public. It was a problem when my sister found it difficult to turn off in China, where everyone understood her and just concluded that she was a disrespectful American.

elephantschild said...

At its core, this is the real reason I want to ressurect my German skills, paltry as they are.

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