HomeAnswerNotificationsCustomize Feeds
HOMEQUESTION
Do you think that people who speak English as a first language are ignorant?
I speak English as my first language, and started travelling Europe about a year ago, and I was amazed at how ignorant some English speakers are -expecting everyone to speak English. I don't think everyone should be expected to speak English and it should be there choice. What do you think?
$0.26
9 ANSWERS

  

Well, “ignorant” is a complex term with some nuances depending on context and culture.

Literally speaking, ignorant is someone who “lacks knowledge or awareness in general”; the term can also be used pejoratively to suggest someone “uneducated or unsophisticated”, it can also mean “discourteous or rude” (OED). Thus, we are all ignorant (by the first acceptation), since there is no way we can know everything about every thing.

Ignorant as uneducated has usually used as a stereotype to refer to entire groups or cultures. In Venezuela, for instance, people refer to the *gochos* (people living in the Andean region of the country) as ignorant and make jokes about how *gocho* you are if you make a *faux pas*.

I am sure the USA has also those labels for certain people from certain regions, or ethnic groups within the same region. Europe must have its ignorant scapegoat, I’m sure, and so on and so forth.

Now, regarding the specific context of the question, I would not generalize. English is the most widely spoken language in the world (Chinese must be the first because of their huge population) and that covers a lot of ground, across 5 continents. There are tons of countries where English is the first or official language. To say that English speakers are ignorant is a massive overgeneralization. I learned that Belize, a tiny country near Mexico, inhabited by people who look “Mexican” was actually an English-speaking country, when I was in the states in 2001. I was 28 years old and felt embarrassed that I did not know that, but, was I supposed to know that?

I learned during my stay in the USA that about 70% of Americans (can attest the validity of that figure, but that’s what I read at the time) did not have passports, that percentage either did not travel much or traveled to places where no passport was needed.

The point is that for some cultures, knowledge of other cultures is contingent to need. There are many factors that can turn a given culture into “Curious Georges” (and I use this lit/cartoon reference affectionately). An educational system that favors an inclusive/comprehensive curriculum may help; a history of international contact and collaboration may also help; a history of migration and cultural intermingling may also be useful. Humbleness can also be of great help.

But, when you have a history of success, of imposition of your culture over others, of invasion and expansion, of war-winning and world-saving (or so you have been taught, there the importance of the curricula), it is understandable (even though you may see it as unacceptable) that individuals from those cultures (France, Russia, Germany, …) see themselves, and their culture and language as the reference. I remember reading that when the European Union was being formed, German chancellor Helmut Kohl allegedly suggested that all meetings should be held in German and that the German currency should be the official European currency. I guess, France felt the same.

In any case, the fact that despite the plurality of languages coming from former empires with equal or similar political, military, and economic weight, English has remained the lingua franca for international affairs has given English speaking people that sense of self-importance and the assumption that they do not need to learn other languages because theirs is somehow superior and just spoken everywhere. The ubiquitousness of English is undeniable; the attitude of English speaker about it is understandable. Ideally, they would be culturally well-rounded and understand the complexity of the world’s linguistic variety. That is the most we can aspire to.

In the meantime, we can politely point out to those who expect the rest of the world to speak their language that English was the result of the mix of Latin, old French, old German dialects, Danish and some other languages, so we might as well be speaking those.    

I know that many English speaking people are fully aware of the history of their language and the geopolitical complexities of linguistic interactions and are humble enough not to expect to be understood by everybody. There are many native English speakers learning other languages out of respect for the cultures that speak them. Statistics is a tricky science and unfortunately, stereotypes are based on flawed statistics. It’s just a matter of keeping our minds open and our patience loaded :) 

$5.29
Reply

The only reason why people are expected to speak English is because it is one of the acceptable lingua franca that is spoken all over the world however the fact that it is one of the languages that is expected doesn't mean it is entirely compulsory for example we have other official lingua franca in the world like french, spanish, russian, arabic and also depending on the country which will come from.

For example people who come from regions like the gambia, nigeria, ghana were all colonized by the british and as a result of this the offical lingua franca is english places like togo koma ivory coast were all colonized by the french and this is the reason why they speak french however a lot of people have the languages in which they converse in and this languages are their local dialects.

So if people are naive in english language it is because they didn't embrace it early as their lingua franca that is for the countries who were colonized by english speaking countries english is definitely not compulsory but is just a way and means to communicate and it is being taught in schools and colleges so if people are naive about it, they can decide to leave it and go with their local dialects especially if english was only an adopted language.

People are only expected to speak english because it is an official language used for communication, it is not a language of slavery or force and if people do not know about it it doesn't make them less human it's only an official lingua franca that can be used for communicating and that is all

$2.68
Reply

To say those who speaks English as their first language are ignorant is not true, considering the fact that there are native speakers of English.

However, English has become a global language, as most manuals for machines and product are written in English. It is a language of education as most academic books are written in English and also some concept or some scientific terms cannot be explained in some languages.

English language has been bastardized, that it accommodate some countries having their their own kind of English e.g Nigerian English, Ghanaian English pidgin English etc.

When you learn a language, you learn the culture alongside with it, it is on this ground that I can say that a person who nativize or adopt English as his first language while abandoning his actual native language is ignorant, because he has also abandon his Culture.

$1.33
Reply

If we put the fact aside that English is the language of education in most of the countries around the world, because most of the books for the higher education are available in English. If we also put the fact aside that the mostly used language on the internet is also English and consider it just a language like others and not the most in use language on the Earth then ... yes, they're ignorant.

There is another side to this question/topic. Not all the world has 100 percent education rate. The people, around the world, who don't get reasonable education (where English started to become an important/essential part of the education), won't be able to speak or understand English so ... yes, they're ignorant.

Another side of the topic are those people, who know how to speak English but they feel proud in speaking their language until and unless it's not necessary. So ... yes, they're ignorant.

Lastly & respectfully, let me correct you, this is not only the case with the people who have English as their first language, this is also the case with the people in many countries who speak English more than their own national language/mother tongue ... expect the same. 

So, despite of me saying again and again "they're ignorant", they are not, actually it more like a psychological process and one need some time, at least a few seconds, to overcome this thought.

Thanks

$1.28
Reply

No, I don't think people who expect everyone to speak English is out of ignorance, they just believe English being a general or mostly spoken language should be understood by everyone since every individual differ and has their specific language .

English is thought in all schools but our native languages aren't , so to some degree they expect that people have been able to adapt to this languages.

Our colonial masters introduced English and most countries were colonized expect India, so this knowledge of being able to speak English is expected , not because they are ignorant but because they assume , the only language shared among people is English

$0.80
Reply

That's a really triggering question and can easily be interpreted wrongly. I do no think is kind of behavior is exclusive to only English speaking people. It is prevalent in different cultures. Here in Nigeria where we have a ton of tribes and dialects, this kind of situations is commonly placed. I stay in part of Lagos, Nigeria predominantly occupied by the Yoruba tribe and it is assumed that everyone within this area can speak the Yoruba dialect. The other day a young man walked up to me and started speaking Yoruba. I was silent for a good and when I did not respond, he asked if I understood what he was saying and I replied no. These things like I said earlier are commonplace. It has nothing to do with your culture or the type of language you speak. We are creatures of habit and we assume what is familiar to us applies to other people as well, but this is not the case. So I hope I was able to answer your question?

$0.76
Reply

I don't generalize and to tell you the truth, I had no unpleasant experience till now. Maybe some people are but I don't think we can say that in general. That would be very wrong. 

When I've been to France, before leaving, I've been warned that French are nationalists and they won't speak to me if I speak  English. I've been there for a week and had no problem with anyone. Everyone was nice to me, they spoke English. I remember at the entrance of an art gallery the man at the door told me to get a free ticket. He only knew French and was very kind, we could understand each other without any problems. 

$0.27
Reply

I don't think so that the people who speak English are ignorant or less intelligent. English is world most speaking and understandable language. This gives English people liberty to not learn other language. On the other hand non native people required efforts to learn English which makes them hard working, but this doesn't mean that Enlish people are ignorant people. However people who know different languages and culture awareness have more skill and creativity.

$0.00
Reply