The Problem With The English Language
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The Problem With The English Language

Wakarimasuka? Oh, sorry - you speak English...

The Problem With The English Language

The United States of America – also known as the center of the world. We’re the hub for entertainment, corporations, social and political scandals, and everything in between. We’re the loud, confident, crazy country that everyone in the world knows and talks about. And our main language? English. Now plenty of other countries are native to speaking English as well, but that’s not what I’m focused on; what I’m planning on discussing are the countries that don’t have English as their first language – so the majority of Asian, African, South American, and Eastern European countries. With too many languages to list – that plenty Americans don’t even know exist – all these countries and cultures have one thing in common; English.

Have you ever sat down and tried to locate all the countries on a map without any hints? It’s quite difficult since there’s just under 200 in the world today. (Want to test yourself? Here’s the quiz; I got 57 in 15 minutes, so there’s some proof that it’s hard.) A handful of these have English as their first language, but the majority have it as second or third and so on. English seems to be the universal language (which is great for native English speakers,) but it just doesn’t seem to sit right with me. The more I learn about foreign countries and their languages, the more I feel confused as to why America is never forced to learn a second language.

From elementary school up to early high school, most kids in the US aren’t required to a second language in class. Schools might require students to take a year of Spanish or French in high school (I was one of a few schools who offered a few extras and took Japanese,) but most struggle or quit afterwards and forget everything. In countries such as Japan and South Korea, children begin learning English in early elementary school and continue up into high school. You’ve probably heard that children are more likely to retain skills the earlier they are exposed to it and learn. Foreign countries try to get this into their generations early to ensure for their futures, whether it be foreign business practices, travel, and popular English-based entertainment.

Now I’m not saying we need to force American and other English-speaking people to learn a bunch of languages; but it might be helpful in our futures to learn another language or two for our careers and personal leisure. It not only looks good on a resume or college application, but it looks good to foreigners when you travel and can maneuver your way around the country with a few basic phrases.

Along with education, non-English speaking countries tend to incorporate English phrases and words into their own entertainment. Music often includes a couple English lyrics to appeal to a wider audience; this very prominent in popular Japanese and Korean music, as well as many European countries. Granted, they tend to listen to a lot of American and British music that is always sung with English lyrics. Movies and TV shows also weave in English phrases, and go so far as to include cultural gestures from English speaking countries. And just like music, they import the majority of English entertainment into their movie theaters and TV stations. Rarely is it the other way around.

So why does this matter? What does it mean to you? Well, if I assume correctly, the few people who will read this article are American, or at least speak English as their first/only language. How many pop artists or English speaking movies and TV shows can you list? Too many to count, right? Well, how many Asian artists or European TV shows or South American entertainment sources can you list? Probably less – maybe even none. After recently getting into a K-Pop band and gaining a sudden interest in learning Korean and realizing how difficult it will be, it made me think of everything I previously stated. Why didn’t I learn a second language as a kid (besides a few episodes of Dora The Explorer?) Why does foreign entertainment have to be so “foreign” – so alienated? I was weird in middle school and high school for liking anime and manga and the reaction I get when I tell people I like K-Pop and J-Pop is a complete 180 compared to if I said I like Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift. I see foreigners struggle with speaking English in America, but still make the effort. If I went abroad to a non-English speaking country and struggled, the native of the country would most likely try to help communicate in English instead.

This article isn’t the best in terms of supporting my claims or even really arguing the point at all. But I want everyone to know how incredible and shocking it is that we, as Americans/ English-speakers, always expect to hear English around us and never attempt to change that; we’re too stubborn with our native tongue. Whether you now finish this article with a burning passion to study a foreign language or continue with your privileged, English-speaking life, respect non-native English speakers and their determination and admiration for our language. And by the way, they probably knew more countries on that quiz than you did.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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