What Country Do You Speak?

I was driving to work today, and singing along to a song from the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch, because – I’m me. I like the Hawaiian songs, so naturally try to sing along, even though I do not speak Hawaiian, so it sounds kind of like this “Oh like oh e maya a una de tala a oof mana mana a eee eee eee eee oh.”

All Hawaiians hula dance. It's the law.

All Hawaiians hula dance. It’s the law.

Then it occurred to me that I didn’t know what their language was really called.  Is it really called Hawaiian?  Cause I live in the United States, and we don’t speak United States.  Nor do we speak American.  We do speak English (supposedly), but New England English is way different than Southern English, or California English.  And if we get online, our English doesn’t look like English at all.  I once looked at an old text and realized I had not capitalized my “I”s, and I cringed because I like to use the word “I” a lot and it just looked like I had barfed preschool on the phone.  Or teen, take your pick.

People speak other languages here too, but we expect everyone to also speak English, cause we are Americans, even if we actually borrowed English from the English, you know, before those guys screwed it up so much.  I mean really – it’s not a jumper.  It’s a sweater.  A jumper is something little girls wear, like overalls but with a skirt.  And we don’t take lifts, nor do we drive lorries, our cars don’t wear bonnets, and use a freaking article when you say “I’m going to university.”  It’s like we Americans have to tell you everything.

But England is weird too, because they don’t just go by England.  They also go by Great Britain, and call themselves British, not Greatish, or Greatish Britainish.  Or they could be the United Kingdom if you include the unimportant countries around them, like Scotland.  I think.  But again, no United Kindomners.  Also do you speak Scottish and Irish, or Gaelic, or just English cause everyone has to speak English because we do?  I don’t know.  I have not even bothered to Google this.  I do know that even the most racist people love foreign accents, so if you have one, come on over.  We’ll go crazy for you.  Look how successful the Beatles were.  It wasn’t cause of their haircuts.

It wasn't the clothes either.

It wasn’t the clothes either.

Now Spain has it right, because their people speak Spanish, but then Mexico speaks Spanish too.  But the two are not actually the same.  Which means the Spanish I was taught by a white Anglo woman was Spain Spanish, and does little to help me speak Mexican Spanish, and there are a lot more Mexicans around Texas than there are Spaniards.  Just ask Donald Trump.  I took several years of Spanish, but still can’t keep up with them because they speak, like, fast.  And then you like translate in your head, and have to respond, and I just can’t keep up with all of that.  Yet I see some people switch effortlessly from Spanish to English in one breath and I wonder if they are some sort of magician.

Then there’s France.  They speak French.  Fair enough.  But we have people in Louisiana who also speak French.  Also Cajun, whatever the heck that is.  Parts of Canada speak French too.  They don’t speak Canadian, unless you count those guys who used to say “hooser” on Saturday Night Live.

Like, Canada, let's have a beer. Then let us in your country. Please.

Like, Canada, let’s have a beer. Then let us in your country. Please.

On to Japan.  They speak Japanese.  Yay.  Also English.  And Engrish, which is a combination of English and Japanese that usually results in hilarity.  Like small children wearing shirts with rather inappropriate words, while smiling big happy smiles.  Of course Americans are known for getting tattoos done in Chinese or Japanese characters (they’re the same, right?) and end up permanently affixed with stupid words.  Just because the guy says it means “warrior” doesn’t mean it’s right.  You could be walking around with the word “sponge” on your bicep.  I bet our Asian neighbors love it when they see this.  Asian is another word you can call Japanese, or Chinese, or Korean, or Vietnamese, because a lot of Americans aren’t going to bother with the difference.  Because we’re too busy playing their video games.

Africa!  Now this is one crazy place.  They don’t all speak African, you guys.  They have different languages and dialects, and if I looked it up, I could probably tell you one of them.  I think they sound very cool, even if they aren’t saying anything important, like in the introduction to the Lion King.  I heard it’s translated something like “It’s a lion, look it’s a lion” which is better than “Llama, llama, penguins in pajamas” which my friend mentioned, and now I hear every time that movie comes on.  I asked a student from Africa what some names meant, and Simba means “lion”, Mufasa means “king”, and Scar means “bad guy”.  Way to be creative, Disney!

We can say whatever we want to - you don't know what we are a sayin - you just think it a sounds a cool-ah. Cirrrrcle of Liiife!

We can say whatever we want to – you don’t know what we are a sayin – you just think it a sounds a cool-ah. Cirrrrcle of Liiife!

There are a lot more countries, but I know most of you have no attention span and probably quit somewhere around England (Australians speak English too!  Sort of!) so I’ll stop here.  Suffice it to say, language is very confusing, especially when it doesn’t even match the country name, so I think everyone should have to change theirs to make it easier (sort of like when you guys all went metric and we didn’t, but yet you still didn’t change back to feet and inches).  So a “good day” to those who speak Canadian, United Kingdom, Louisiana, Asian, African, and those other places on the map.  You’re welcome.




23 responses

  1. I wish the people here would speak english too, why it can not be like in canada? I would like that, because french is a difficult thing… specially here where a lot of people speak breton also …. :o)

    1. I could never even begin to speak French. Como talle what?

  2. Отличный пост!
    Sorry, I decided this would be a good time to show off my languaging skills – and also to point out that some countries not only use different languages, but use different alphabets to write them, as if the Latin alphabet isn’t good enough for them.

    1. Right! And they write it BACKWARDS too, like hello, you read left to right and you only drive on the left. But left handed people are evil. Duh!

      That really looks impressive, though, even if you’re just saying “The cat is on my face.”

    2. Or, they use the same alphabet, but assign completely different sounds to a lot of the letters. I’m looking at you, Polish.

      1. yeah and half the time languages use inflection to make their meaning clear and oh – wait. That’s English.

  3. Quebec French is to France French as Mexican Spanish is to Spain Spanish.

    1. Well that figures. Get it RIGHT, Canadians! 😀

  4. I loved that movie!

    1. Me too – man we are old!

      1. Old as fucking dirt.

  5. You forgot India. I read somewhere that there are more English speakers in India than in the United States–possibly more than in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand combined–and most of them speak other languages, too. At least, they are technically speaking English. But Indian English is actually it’s own dialect that comes from speaking British English with an Indian accent–so really it’s two steps removed from American English, which is why it is almost as hard to understand a customer service person in India as the ones in Mississippi.

  6. Ha!Excellent post Alice. I haven’t given over much thought to it but I do amuse myself with little language peccadilloes. My ex wife was Acadian French (northern New Brunswick – often mixed with English), she did her university in Parisian french (what’s taught in schools) and her work demanded that she learn Quebec french (mostly a learn as you go process). It was funny to watch her on the phone (she worked for Canada Post at their Head Office) switching from one french to another.

    My employer once decided that the managers should speak french since we had about 40% french stores. They laid on a training program and our teacher was a university prof who specialized in languages and taught on the side. She was hilarious. She loved languages and spoke about 7 – and she collected funny stories about language guaffs. She told one story where she and her husband went on a trip to Paris France He spoke a very little Quebec french. In Quebec, “gaz” is used as a shorthand for gas -although it is really “petrol”. In France “gaz” is used to signify natural gas, which is used to fuel some cars (but not theirs) there. Anyway, she and her husband rented a car and were driving in France when they needed to stop for gas. She saw a gas station that had an antiques shop attached and she told him to pull in. He insisted that he would take care of getting the car filled while she checked out the shop. It was full serve and when she returned to the car, he was standing by confused and the attendant was under the car with just his feet sticking out. She inquired as to what was happening and he shrugged and said he had just said “Remplissez le gaz s’il vous plait.” and the attendant had asked a few questions that he didn’t understand and crawled under the car. She bent down and asked the attendant what he was doing and he said that her husband had told him to fill the car with natural gas and he couldn’t find the fill pipe so he was looking under the car for the tank. Ha! Wrong gas.

    1. That could go wrong in so many ways. I recall a Spanish teacher telling us not to say the word for to fill to mean you’re full (as in can’t eat anymore) because then it means you’re pregnant. I could imagine announcing that at the dinner table. More ice cream? No thanks, I’m pregnant.

        1. As an aside Alice, I did a guest post over at Cordelia’s Mom https://cordeliasmomstill.com/2016/05/09/good-chemistry-guest-post-by-paul-curran/#comment-17107 I’d be honored if you had the time to drop by.

  7. Having spoken with lots of Americans, I think they seem to question my handling of the English language when I speak as colloquialisms abound and usually don’t translate first time. ‘Unimportant countries like Scotland’, I got a kick out of that!

    1. I can just imagine what people think who don’t understand sarcasm. Alice is SO RACIST. lol.

      1. I can imagine their stony faces reading your posts and clearly not getting it, lol.

        1. I just wrote a post to help them out with that!

  8. Languages in Africa are way confusing. Each country has at least two, I think there’s some sort of law about it or something. There’s one country (Eritrea) where they have 9 different languages. (Which is probably a good thing to enable you to avoid talking to the neighbours, should you wish to do so.) In some African countries, they use English as the common language and in schools and so on. Yay Empire! Or maybe not any more as we’re supposed to be a Commonwealth. But basically it’s an Empire hangover, just without there having been the enjoyment of much alcohol consumption before hand. Unless you were Queen Victoria, perhaps.

    1. We had a student from China, and when we asked what language they spoke it revealed that yes we are in fact really stupid Americans. He said uh yeah I can’t understand Chinese people from provinces so many miles away. As in, it’s really freaking big you idiots, no they aren’t all alike. Whoops.

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