English as the Dominant Language

A few days ago at dinner, a few of us were discussing the presence of the English language here in Italy. Everywhere we go, although the language is not strong and tends to be broken, English is present everywhere. Every restaurant or store, or even on the street, its clear that all the individuals, even the Italian born and raised ones, understand a certain level of English. This summer I went to Israel, and the same thing was the norm. All of the store and restaurant owners we encountered on the trip were able to understand and communicate with us, even if they did not fully understand everything we were saying, there was basic level of them comprehending our English and responding in their own broken English as well. In addition to this, we had 7 Israeli soldiers who joined our trip, and they all spoke very great English. These soldiers were all in their early 20’s, meaning that they grew up in an Israeli society where they heard a very large amount of English. I find it very interesting how the norm seems to be that when Americans travel to different countries, the locals understand our language, but when foreigners travel to America they expect to encounter much larger language barriers. This leads me to wonder how English became the norm language and if this is a good or a bad thing.

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2 thoughts on “English as the Dominant Language

  1. I was thinking about this too throughout the trip. I think in Rome it is especially important for many of the shop owners to learn English because of the amount of American tourists that come over. English is definitely a very dominant language because we made it one. Many European education systems push English, while here in America we have more options when taking languages and we aren’t pushed to be very good at time. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say “this is America, we speak English!” We are very stubborn in our language, I think, because we are lazy and don’t want to bother trying to learn another language if we don’t have to.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your blog post and actually had similar thoughts during my time here in Italy. I think it definitely says something about us as Americans and our influence around the world. After all, like you pointed out, when people from other countries come to America, they are expected to speak English. I work at a department store in Ocean City, Maryland every summer, where international students from all over come to work and I can tell you firsthand how cruel people are if you don’t speak an appropriate level of English. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say “if you can’t come here and learn English than go home. “For me, this is disheartening because as a nation we are known for being a melting pot of different cultures, races, and religions. I am not expecting everyone to learn Spanish or Mandarin or whatever other language that we come across in our daily lives; this isn’t realistic. However, what i do expect is the same respect that those in Siracusa, most of whom spoke little to no English, gave us: empathy. From this experience, it definitely gave me a greater appreciation of being globally aware–there is more out than what we know and we should learn to respect these differences because they are what makes the world so much more interesting.

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