Monday, June 16, 2014

The Sun Never Sets on the English Empire

17 June 2014

Yes, that misquote is deliberate.

I feel as if I should say something about expectations that people around the world speak English.  No, we're not the tourists who expect everyone to speak English.  Between the two of us, we can get by in Hebrew, Spanish, French, Italian, and even Loma (a small tribe in northern Liberia and parts of Guinea and Sierra Leone).  And we try to learn a few words of the majority language of every place we visit.

But we have found that there are obscure places where English is, indeed, the language of the country, simply because there are so many different languages.  And because that country was part of the British Empire at some point in time.  The Solomon Islands are a prime example - this is a nation of nearby islands, each with its own culture and language - so the national language is English.  India.  Singapore.  Parts of Africa (the parts that don't speak French, or Dutch, or Portugeuse).  And I'm sure there are other island nations where English is the mother tongue.

Even Samoa, in the middle of the Pacific, teaches English in the public schools.

English has become the international language, and we North Americans (other than Mexico, and small parts of Canada) can benefit from this.  We've seen Croatians and French people conversing in English.  Russians and Greeks.  I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

So while we don't enter a country expecting everyone to speak English, when we encounter someone who does this makes it so much easier.

However, we also use a lot of signs, and short sentences, and pointing, and as a last resort I sketch a picture.  We get by.

But trust me, we do appreciate all the English speakers we've encountered - thank you!  (And thank you to all the English teachers out there!)



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