the mini tower of babel - google translate


A weakness in American culture is that we simply live in a country so large and diverse, that many of us never really had to learn another language besides English.   in my grandparents generation, while the immigrant language was brought into the country, the idea of "being american" meant you learned english as fast as possible.   today, it feels like  america is simply changing the languages to fit immigration.   it won't be long where political correctness will have the ability to push 100 different languages and dialects to talk to someone when calling a public office to get information.   the ironic part is that the government will probably outsource the service to private contractors in other countries and lament what is happening to the domestic economy.

another reasons for this trend is that  geography is so diverse and interesting, that many americans are not really forced to even go out of the country to see amazing things.  i can't think of a more interesting country than the usa to get in a car, fill up your tank of gas and just drive to be amazed with scenic adventure and wonderment.   

traveling  the planet with live entertainment shows, i was amazed at how widely english was spoken and how rare it was for us to need to hire translators.   today, for me, the English language is like a dual edged sword, in some cases it is a blessing, in others, like learning to speak a new language – it tends to be a curse.

 While I realize this inability to speak doesn’t bother me, as I have traveling the world with finger pointing language – it doesn’t bode well if you know you will stay in one location for very long.  the later is a new concept for me.

Today, our international class grew a Cuban woman, a man from Syria, and an Italian man who I understand his lack of understanding german, all too well.  He is like I was before I tried the Rosetta stone course, like running into the fire with everyone telling him, "it's hot!"  but he doesn't understand what anyone is saying.

The fun of this immigrant group, is that somehow, except for the Italian language, everyone can figure out how to translate a question in one language, even if it goes through four or five different people and translations to get to the understanding of what the word or question is.  I find it ironic, as if they put wifi in the class, we could invoke what i call the mini tower of Babel - aka - google translate,  and simply push a few buttons to get the answer.  What this invention doesn’t do very well is educate someone how to actually speak.  It works in a pinch, but will not allow anyone to really speak; understand and, and just have a normal native conversation.  

In a few hours, my little class, which now comprises me, a cuban, syraian, sri lankan, Italian, afghanistanian,  two tibetians, and two Eritreans meets again.   I am not sure which teacher will show up today….the eastern European lad that doesn’t understand why we need to use a workbook? Or the only actual swiss guy in the class who I seemed to get a lot more from – because he followed the book a bit.   i guess i am just lost in translation.

Stay tuned for more "Ich lerne jetz?"