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June 17, 2009

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Thanks, hilzoy.

Because everyone knows English.

{Sigh.}

Actually it is almost certainly French, and France is a major trading partner.

It isn't written of widely, but English will soon be the common language of the world. Children learn English in school from Ethiopia to Myanmar to Nicaragua, to everywhere.

Was amazed to find the same thing in China, where I was told fluency in English was the best way to get a good job.

My wife and I commented on this on our recent trip to a couple European countries. Not the "everyone speaks English nowadays" part, which is true (see joke at bottom), but the thing about the similar words across languages for "police." I would love to find out why that word seems to be almost identical in just about every Western language.

So, the joke that I recently heard:

If you speak four languages you're quadrilingual.

If you speak three languages you're trilingual.

If you speak two languages you're bilingual.

If you speak one language you're an American.*

*(Really this could apply to several countries where English is the native tongue, though).

In casual conversation in a Hannover kondittorei, I angered the other participants when I claimed to be an American (which, of course, I am) - because "everyone knows" that Americans can't speak German....

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