It seems to be fairly common knowledge that people of my generation from the United States, and a bit younger, usually only speak one language, English. When I was in school, it was fairly rare to travel the world and just really uncommon for anyone to do much more, language wise, than take what was required to get a diploma. I believe that it has changed somewhat since then but it’s still more common than not that U.S. citizens will only have one language good and solid under their belt. (I’m thinking that for some of the much younger generation, I’m not even sure they have English down pat as a language!)
I’ve tried at various times to learn different languages, mainly Spanish, but have failed miserably in that I don’t practice, I don’t study, and I just don’t have a good ear for it either. I’ve tried Mandarin Chinese, French, German, and Korean at different times of my life. and while I might have a very minuscule vocabulary in each of them, I cannot say that I can speak, read, or write any of them. So it can be embarrassing when I meet people and they are speaking 3 or 4 or 7 or 8 different languages and I’m going “one”. So as a kind of joke, I decided to claim more languages and I proudly list them out for people when asked.
Now I say I speak, write, read and understand 6 languages and they are: American, British, Canadian, eh, Australian, New Zealand, and finally Singaporean, la. This gets a very good laugh among my audience. But this week I have been vindicated in that they really are separate languages!!! How, you may ask. Well, we just bought a new computer for me. My old one was dying a very slow and painful death. (It does feel better today because it knows its days are numbered). My husband was working hard last night to get the new computer up and running and asked me whether I wanted British or American language on it! See – right there an indication that they are two languages. Since we are living in England, I said British.
My husband gets busy and is attempting to transfer my files and programs from the old computer to the new computer when he runs into a very large and big and unexpected snag! The new computer can’t talk to the old computer and vice versa because they don’t speak the same language! OMG. how very, very droll. All these years of declaring that I speak 6 languages and I suddenly find out that for computers, it is true and I am totally right! My new computer could not understand what my old computer was telling it. Sooo, he had to go back to the beginning and download a language program and change my new computer to American so that it can understand the old computer.
HA! all you smug people who snickered at me for not knowing more than one language when you knew 2 or 3, I knew 6 all along and now I have been vindicated. Thank you Google and Microsoft and Chrome and Internet Explorer and all the rest. Let me thank you in all six languages, Thanks, Thank you eh, Cheers, Thanks, Ta, Thank you la la.