I’m hardly a linguist, but I strongly believe that when you visit someone else’s country, you need to speak their language—literally. Not that you need to be fluent in español or français or Arabic or Thai, but it shows a real sense of respect if you at least TRY to start your conversations off with pleasantries and polite phrases in the local tongue. Nothing says “ugly American” (or Australian or fill-in-the-nationality) like expecting those you meet at stores, at the train station, on the street to automatically speak the language you speak at home.
Archives – April, 2009
I don’t know about you, but I was glued to the TV and news Web sites last week, watching President Barack Obama’s (and First Lady Michelle’s) every move as they took Europe by storm. Pride swelled in me—and tears occasionally welled in my eyes—as I saw these smart, strong, self-confident African-Americans from MY South Side of Chicago interact with and YES, dazzle leaders from around the world, including the Queen of England.
How cool was this, to see these two Americans stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the globe’s most important people and pass with flying colors? And how fabulous was it to see the reception they got from “regular folks”—Michelle with those adorable girls in that London school, the president when interacting with thoughtful young people during those town halls in Strasbourg and in Istanbul?
I wish I could have been on the streets of London; of Strasbourg, France; of Prague when the gorgeous First American Couple made their appearances last week. How heartwarming it was to see regular Europeans—and their leaders—wholeheartedly embrace these two who represent the best of what America can be.