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Stereotypes About Native English Speakers


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Although this is a stereotype, this is pretty much based on truth from what I've seen here in the US. Most Europeans know two or more languages and Asians are pressured to learn English hardcore from an early age as examination of English proficiency is something they will have to go through throughout their job-seeking process. But what I've noticed time and again is that Americans tend to mostly know only English. Yes they do know a couple very basic Spanish words time to time since they live right next to Mexico and there are a lot of Hispanics in the US but I have found it very difficult to find bilingual Americans. Moreover, American tourists tend to take for granted that English will be understood wherever they travel.

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Quite a few people are surprised when I say I can speak more than 2 languages, I think a lot of people are of the opinion that the English aren't willing to learn any new languages. Also, as English is quite a widely spoken language, quite a lot of English people think there's no need to learn one.

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I like languages and I'm pretty decent at learning them, but as a native English speaker for America I can only speak English fluently.  I need to find more opportunities to use other ones on a daily basis, if I want to get there.

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It is a bit of a stereotype that Americans only speak English but then again its also a truth.  Many other countries make it mandatory that students learn a second language and start teaching it at a young age.  I wasn't taught a second language (Spanish) until I was in high school and remember very little of it.  Schools now days offer more than just Spanish or French, no doubt aware of the nature of business these days and the need to speak other languages. 

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Yes, that's the biggest stereotype, most Americans only speak English because they don't think other languages are important. I think this is wrong, English is no doubt the most important language, but other languages are important too of course.

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I think one of the biggest stereotypes is that Native English speakers are not willing to learn another language. That they have this air of superiority about them and are not willing to learn some other language. I think that gets me the most.

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One shouldn't confuse stereotypes with generalizations, which seems to be subject this topic has deviated to. A proper stereotype about English speakers would be, for instance, saying that Canadians end every sentence with "eh?".

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I agree, I think it's a common assumption that most English speakers don't learn a second language, but I think it's warranted because I honestly think they don't really have to either, at least not as much as other countries who need to learn English. After all, English is the international language.

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I am an native english speaker from the UK and I think there is no real motivation for children to learn a second language over here. No one seems to think they will ever need to use it. And although French is taught at high schools, this is something you can choose if you want to study or not. I do feel that children need to be educated about the benefits of learning a second language from an early age, and start learning languages at an early age.

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I learned from neighbor who immigrated recently to America that she believes native English speakers talk too fast and are somewhat rude. She also told me that the air 'stunk' in America. It took her 30 days to get used to the smell.

That's funny. It seems everyone has the same things to say about a foreign land -- the people speak too fast, it smells funny, and the native speakers are rude. I don't believe this to be a stereotype exclusive to English speakers. My friend almost had the exact gripes with his time in India.
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That's funny. It seems everyone has the same things to say about a foreign land -- the people speak too fast, it smells funny, and the native speakers are rude. I don't believe this to be a stereotype exclusive to English speakers. My friend almost had the exact gripes with his time in India.

Exactly, that pretty much described Spain to me.  :tongue:

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One shouldn't confuse stereotypes with generalizations, which seems to be subject this topic has deviated to. A proper stereotype about English speakers would be, for instance, saying that Canadians end every sentence with "eh?".

That's a very good point and I agree.  There is a difference between the two.  To generalize about native English speakers brings on several assumptions such as have been discussed here.  Especially that native English speakers are not willing or interested in learning other languages and, conversely may think that people instead should be learning English.

Several native English speakers on this thread have already shown themselves to be exceptions to such generalities.  After all, that's why we're here; we have an interest in learning other languages.  :)

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I agree with most of what you have said here. I am a Filipino, and we had three classes of English growing up. Job interviews and CV's must also be in English as well. You have to be skillful in your area of expertise, and being fluent in English adds major bonus points if you are working to go higher up the corporate ladder.

Although this is a stereotype, this is pretty much based on truth from what I've seen here in the US. Most Europeans know two or more languages and Asians are pressured to learn English hardcore from an early age as examination of English proficiency is something they will have to go through throughout their job-seeking process. But what I've noticed time and again is that Americans tend to mostly know only English. Yes they do know a couple very basic Spanish words time to time since they live right next to Mexico and there are a lot of Hispanics in the US but I have found it very difficult to find bilingual Americans. Moreover, American tourists tend to take for granted that English will be understood wherever they travel.

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It's unfair to blame English speakers for being monolingual as there is so much less exposure to other languages. British people can almost universally use American English, and none of us have ever made an effort to learn it, but merely by osmosis from media we have picked it up.

It takes much less effort for non-native to learn English as there is so much natural immersion.

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I think that the stereotypical image of an obnoxious American considering themselves above learning other languages is overblown. There are those that are obnoxious and do have superiority complexes, but that's not most Americans in my opinion.

I think that the stereotype heavily persists because:

a) World travelers from the U.S. are more likely to have a comfortable amount of money at home. They resultingly exhibit a superiority complex when they  go to represent us around the world.

B) Americans are prone to hiding behind "don't want to learn" as a cover for "I feel incapable. Other people must just be special. Learning another language makes me feel painfully stupid, so I'll avoid it."

Americans in general hold an admiration for people that speak multiple languages. Unless you're Hispanic. In which case, bigotry often overshadows admiration. However, in other cases, it's just sort of implied that people outside the U.S. must have a special affinity or special circumstances. Unconsciously, to the American mind multilingual people are geniuses.

Of course, the real special sauce behind languages being "harder" for us to learn is that Americans are complacent. No active need or pressure is presented on a regular basis. I'm of the opinion that I have just as much ability to learn a language as people in the rest of the world. It just seems less attainable here because our cultural values glorify it, instead of presenting practical pressures.

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I just wanna throw this thought out there. What is the definition of a "native English speaker?". When I think about it, its seems like a flawed definition. I say that because English is the universal language and you have perfectly fluent English speakers from just about every country on Earth. Would you consider a boy from China for example, who grew up in an English speaking house and with perfect English speaking abilities to be a native English speaker?

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I think one of the biggest stereotypes is that Native English speakers are not willing to learn another language. That they have this air of superiority about them and are not willing to learn some other language. I think that gets me the most.

I don't think the characterization is true, but I think you are right that this is a widely held belief.  When I grew up in the US, a second language was mandatory in the public school system.  I don't know if that has changed, but me and all my friends had a choice of Spanish, French or Latin...yes mandatory.

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Americans do have a compulsory requirement in terms of learning a second language but its not as rigorous as in other countries.  Perhaps if they started students at a much younger age then it might be more effective.  At this point learning a second language in schools is simply something that students must do to graduate to the next level.

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I dont think english speakers arent willing to learn other language, in fact us Canadians also study french because of Canada being a bilingual country. So, maybe americans but that stereotype isnt true for us Canadians.

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It depends which country you are talking about there are more than 2 countries which their native language is different and they have similar cultures or habits yet a bit different, so it's hard to say the stereotypes of all of them :P

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I was required to take a second language throughout primary & secondary school, as well as college, but the courses weren't very rigorous. Most of what I've learned (Spanish primarily) has been of my own volition.

I don't really blame anyone here, or think that Americans are less WILLING to learn, I think it's just that the skills we do learn are rapidly lost because, unlike most other countries in the world, most of us MOST of the time are not surrounded by speakers of other languages. We have some French speakers in the north and Spanish speakers in the south, and some of them have integrated into our culture, but if you are like me and live in Pennsylvania (or any other state that isn't touching the Mexican border really), there is just no real-world opportunity or need to practice.

Most European and Asian countries are close neighbors with countries that utilize other languages, and most European, etc. countries are small enough that you don't really need to travel far to find communities that speak other languages. We just don't have that sort of dynamic here, and it is sort of unique.

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