New York is the great social experiment of the planet. We are the example of how eight million people from all over can share this small piece of real estate peacefully. Here we are, melting pot of the universe. Walk down the street, hop the train, attend a function at the UN and count the number of languages you hear.
As the world becomes smaller and our communication technology like SKYPE has made things we once only watched on cartoons like the Jetsons a reality. More than ever before in the history of the world, just to be able to have a chance to compete and function on an international level we must speak at least three languages. This is a new concept for most Americans who’s Americentric education has given us a worldwide reputation for being bad tourists. We have always imposed that everyone else learns to speak English for our benefit. That no longer flies. Today, most decent schools around the world do their best to produce generations of people that can compete in the global market place by speaking three or more languages. The Swiss for example are known for this benefit to their educational system.
Protocol dictates that at gatherings, the chosen language be the one understood by the majority. On the other hand, if one person is left out, the polite thing to do is to translate from time to time, so everyone is included in the conversation.
Recently I found myself in South America where I could practice my French. Like, Americans, Francophiles tend to flock together no matter where they are in the world, and so, I found myself at the most sophisticated lunch with my family, where, although everyone at the table spoke three languages in common, French was the language at the table. French is technically my second language but in practice my third. My command of Spanish is far greater than my French, which although fully comprehensible, is not eloquent. So ashamed by my poor handle of my mother’s tongue, I reserve it for when I must. Whereas with Spanish I feel totally comfortable from habitual use and forgiveness by others for my small grammatical errors.
Immediately, I was transported back to the family reunions of my childhood where meals consisted of smiling politely, dying to be included, yet being seen but not heard. Following the topics of Swiss private banking and the price of vacation properties in the south of France, or Florida versus Colombia were not hard to follow, just simply out of my realm.
It makes one appreciate the language of pets, where depending on the intonation, a woof, growl, meow or purr is universal…
Communication is the key to everything. If you find yourself in a situation where someone is not communicating with you I suggest making the effort to find out why. If you are in a group, try to make sure everyone is included so nobody feels ignored, especially if you are the host. When you ignore someone’s presence you minimize their existence. Ultimately we are our words, it’s what makes us human: humorous, interesting, boring, a prick, or just kind.
We are now 9 billion people that share this finite space called earth. We had better start communicating…