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"It's Embarrassing" to Speak Only English, Says Obama


Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) autographs magazines and photos after a town hall-style meeting in Dayton, Ohio, July 11, 2008. (Associated Press)

By Perry Bacon Jr.
DAYTON, Ohio -- Sen. Barack Obama wishes he spoke Spanish -- or some other language.

"I said something the other day down in Georgia, and the Republicans jumped on this. I said, you know, absolutely immigrants need to learn English, but we also need to learn foreign languages," he said here Friday. "...I don't speak a foreign language. It's embarrassing!"

While campaigning in Georgia earlier in the week, the Illinois senator had called for Americans to learn more foreign languages.

"It's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German," he had said. "And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is 'merci beaucoup.'"

Conservatives ridiculed Obama for the remark, but the senator seemed eager to defend it here, as the question he was asked was about the No Child Left Behind education law.

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 11, 2008; 3:06 PM ET
 
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Comments

I agree with Senator Obama I am a 15 year old hispanic girl. When i came to this country i didn't speak a word of english, yet I learned because it was a matter of neccesity. Now not only I speak perfect english and spanish but I'm currently in the third year of french. That to me it's quite impressive, since french was not a neccesity, it is however a sense of acomplishment.

Posted by: linam2j | July 23, 2008 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Well of course us Americans can mainly only speak one language! How necessary is it for our citizens to learn a foreign language when we live in a huge country where you could travel 2000 miles and still be speaking English? Come on. Most of us will never travel to another country, and that's not because we're ignorant, it's just because our country is enormus and hard to escape, and most people don't have the money to travel abroad. And another thing: The rest of the world is learning our language! That's probably because English is the international language of business and science, tons and tons of classic literature is written in english, Tons of music is written and performed in english, and media is flooded with english (Hollywood, MTV, television in general, the internet, etc). English is everywhere! I'm sure that if I was raised in europe, then I would have learned English accidentally without ever having taken a formal class. How can europeans not encounter English (or other languages, for that matter, since there are like 40 languages spoken in europe and the countries are tiny and right next to each other). I think that English kindof serves as a common second language for all europeans so that they can travel around their continent and converse with locals from other countries. It is far more necessary for Europeans to learn a second language, and that is why they do.
I took french for 5 years, from 7th grade to 11th, and I did learn a lot. I probably could have carried out a basic conversation with a french person. But here's the thing: I never got an opportunity to actually use my french, so it faded pretty quickly. Kindof sad really.
Immersion is the only way to really learn another language.
One last point: In other countries, kids learn foreign languages very young, which is much, much better. Here in the US, foreign language learning starts in high school, which is far too late.
Learning foreign languages in America is a novelty. In the rest of the world and especially europe it is a necessity.

Posted by: John | July 16, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Now that's a good post. Good luck to all of us.

Posted by: justadad55+ | July 14, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

When other countries require or encourage their citizens to learn other languages, it is for a reason. It is not so they can merely add more languages under their belt or evade embarrassment!
When I traveled to Europe, and learned that the majority of people knew 2-3 languages. How awesome! However, a lot of them needed to know multiple languages because they have many neighboring countries speaking different languages.
I'm talking necessity here. We have languages to communicate! We communicate for the sole purpose of survival! We have progressed from grunts as cave people to intelligent communication abilities (this includes all verbal and nonverbal communication) because we needed to. If an individual needs to know another language, then they should make the effort to know more.

It is not "embarrassing" to be unable to speak a foreign language and does not deserve the judgmental criticism from Barack Obama.

Thats fine if Obama feels embarrassed for not knowing other languages, but he does not need to guilt others!

Posted by: Amanda | July 14, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

And yes, most are scared. Scared of loosing a young father or mother or child for our stupidity. Scared of abusing your Pension. Scared that some stupid bastard is going to trigger another war. So enjoy for you must be rich or had a great inheritance. That will mean squat in the end. Why you may ask.
Because,

Posted by: zee | July 13, 2008, 6:58 PMI'm praying for you guys to get married, get a job paying a living wage, get a LIFE of some sort. The world is going to keep passing you by if this is all you do.
Turn off the computer and have some fun, talk to some real people. Really. Step outside and breathe.

Well, my friend, we the people have not talked to the right people. So many that are married lost spouses. And to end, how great the computer is . We can share our worries. So very glad your life is so great. I mean that. Just an old fool from Canada.

Posted by: justadad55+ | July 13, 2008 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Sorry my friend south of us, but the party is over. Nows the time to ask real Questions. We do, and all though none of our business, it really is, for Canada and America, not Latinaoamarica is a really big issue. Breathing is natural, understanding the importance of all cultures and the backbone of both our countries is another, Have another beer.

Posted by: justadad55+ | July 13, 2008 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Wow! You can always tell when something Senator Obama says is good by the frightened responses posted by these little men in their windowless rooms.

I'm praying for you guys to get married, get a job paying a living wage, get a LIFE of some sort. The world is going to keep passing you by if this is all you do.

Turn off the computer and have some fun, talk to some real people. Really. Step outside and breathe.

Posted by: zeze | July 13, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Communication is not about "Language": It is about your intent to communicate with others. Language is just an empty form--meanings do not reside in such a linguistic form.

Posted by: Premier | July 13, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Americans should not worry about being force to learn additional language in school especially "Spanish" because it would never happen because that is only Barack Obama's way of presidential campaign marketing strategy to get votes from American-Hispanic constituent.

Posted by: daruy | July 13, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Barack is absolutely right....just remember the Roman Empire and the word "HUBRIS"...so many of the comments here are great examples of that word.

Posted by: DickNH | July 13, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

It is a common fact that the laborers such as carpenters, plumbers etc are the fabric that make life comfortable for all. Most young people can often be held back in life by being forced something on them that they were not born to really have an interest in. Most of these young laborers have more survival and moral skills than the so called educated . Get a politician to fix your toilet, or your car, or any of the so called luxuries in life. If take our pleasures in life for granted, we are fools. Some enjoy the so called dirty work.
Like I said, if your John plugs up, who rally cares if the person can speak at all as long as you don't have to cry in the corner with all your education, for being so called educated are the only skills you have in life. If your are in need of protection, who cares if the person fighting your Country can only speak one language. Yes, by all means, if a child is gifted by the powers above to speak another language, thats great. That is not the truthful nature of all human beings. It is the child that is born to be a jack of all trades, a surviver, that makes life comfortable for us.

Posted by: justadad55+ | July 13, 2008 5:29 AM | Report abuse

Man you hit the meat of this election. Your kids are already doing the dirtiest job for your politicians, They are dying for their Country. Has anyone even noticed. Any second or third language is a plus for anyone and should be encouraged and paid for at the families expense, but not just Spanish. And your brave young men and women will die in war regardless of how many languages are spoken. Why is this an election issue, it is just common sense?

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Posted by: rpqb6snlsq | July 13, 2008 3:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I should have read some of the posts here before I posted. I don't usually stick around when the comments are this wretchedly hate-filled. Good luck to all of you who refuse to learn about the world. Your grandkids will be the ones doing the world's dirty work.

Posted by: Jason | July 12, 2008 8:12 PM | Report abuse

How come there are no Blacks on Obama's Veep list? .. not the short list or the long list????

Posted by: Francisco Cardenas | July 12, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Limiting your knowledge of other languages limits you knowledge of the world. If we taught language to our kids like they do in nearly every country in the world, we wouldn't be in some of the messes we are in. Learning languages makes you smarter and stronger and any person who doesn't want to be stronger or more knowledgeable gets what they deserve. It's not about making Spanish our official language if that's what you're afraid of. It's about teaching world languages to our children (shouldn't we ALL be learning some Chinese, though?)for their future in the world.

Posted by: Jason | July 12, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse

My parents had to learn English when they immigrated...but...that was back when you moved to the country for opportunity and wanted to be AMERICAN. Today's multicultural crap teachings and nanny state mentality have us pandering to everyone and their brother.

You know why people all over the world speak English...because they want to do business with us. As a center for economic power, America's language is a means of making communication more efficient for those that do business with us.

Oh...I and happen to think studying a second language (and seeing other countries) is great stuff...but with Obama you may end being forced into a second langauge....again...more nanny state government.

Posted by: MakeUsProud | July 12, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Language is a tool of communication. Nobody should be embarrassed for having the use of just one language, beside some studies have linked bilingualism to increased risk of Alzheimer disease.
Obama said:"And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is 'merci beaucoup.'"
From a Hispanic Mexican perspective, this would come across as something like:"And then we go over to the United States of America and all we can say is 'Gracios Senior.'"
Can you say 'Clam Chowder' in French, Sir?

LAME YOU CAN TRUST.

Posted by: pete | July 12, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Learning a language is a difficult task. It takes a whole lot of memorization, hard work, and persistance. However, given the current state of the US education public school system, teaching to the test and other nonsense.. Learning a second language is a trully difficult for our kids. Compare our primary and secondary school systems to Europe, Asia, and South America.. our kids curriculum is an utter joke and guess what its no wonder our economy is in such a horrible state..its not a democratic or republican issue its about our future. Ingenuity and Intelligence starts with a great education AND WE NEED A CHANGE!

Posted by: sunnyside1 | July 12, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

There goes the flyover vote and those bitter whites clinging to their religion and guns living in small towns. They don't need a lecture from Obama.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 12, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I believe that it should be encouraged for our people, or at least their children nowadays, to learn another language. There are many countries that have 1 up on us; they know their native language (if it is not English), but they also know ours. Technology is steadily improving, I believe that our personal standards should be steadily improving too.

What I don't believe in, is Spanish being mandatory, no. I believe secondary language should be promoted, but people should choose as they find interest. In my household, Japanese is the chosen secondary language. In the United States, English is #1.

Posted by: Obama2008 | July 12, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse


I believe the president of the United States should be fluent in at least one language.

And don't misunderestimate the fluency of George W. Bush!

Posted by: Don | July 12, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Castro must be laughing at America,
Most his people will soon run your country.

Posted by: justada55+ | July 12, 2008 5:05 AM | Report abuse

Why the hell should I have to press one for English!!!


Posted by: Marti | July 12, 2008 3:14 AM | Report abuse

Why the hell should I have to press one for English!!!


Posted by: Marti | July 12, 2008 3:14 AM | Report abuse

Why the hell should I have to press one for English!!!


Posted by: Marti | July 12, 2008 3:14 AM | Report abuse

I am not a Democrat neither a Republican. I do think I will ever be one of them. Because both parties are just partisan jokes.

America is the only country where the majority of its citizens speak only English. the worst thing is that we have been tought that we should learn other languages. Or if someone does not speak English, that person is damn. How ignorant that thinking could be?. Please, you all who critisize Obama for that comment is out of the reality we are facing. At least, he is right on this.

Can anyone in this blog tell me how difficult it is for our men and women in uniform in Irak or Afganistan. I was reading the other day an article about the difficulties that our brave men and women encountered just because they don''t speak the language. For those of you ignorant conservatives, contact the Pentagon and they will explain to the difficuties they are facing and how much tax payers' money they spend just for tranlators in Iraq and Afganistan as good examples.

Posted by: irvin | July 12, 2008 2:19 AM

WHATEVER Irwin, you are an idiot if you really believe this crap!!

You think that in other wars that we fought in, we knew how to speak their languages?

You are an ASS!

And by the way, learn how to spell...IRAQ, not IRAK..

either pick up a weapon and fight for freedom or shut the hell up and quite slinging mud at our armed forces!!!!!

Posted by: Marti | July 12, 2008 3:05 AM | Report abuse

I am not a Democrat neither a Republican. I do think I will ever be one of them. Because both parties are just partisan jokes.

America is the only country where the majority of its citizens speak only English. the worst thing is that we have been tought that we should learn other languages. Or if someone does not speak English, that person is damn. How ignorant that thinking could be?. Please, you all who critisize Obama for that comment is out of the reality we are facing. At least, he is right on this.

Can anyone in this blog tell me how difficult it is for our men and women in uniform in Irak or Afganistan. I was reading the other day an article about the difficulties that our brave men and women encountered just because they don''t speak the language. For those of you ignorant conservatives, contact the Pentagon and they will explain to the difficuties they are facing and how much tax payers' money they spend just for tranlators in Iraq and Afganistan as good examples.

Posted by: irvin | July 12, 2008 2:19 AM

WHATEVER Irwin, you are an idiot if you really believe this crap!!

You think that in other wars that we fought in, we knew how to speak their languages?

You are an ASS!

And by the way, learn how to spell...IRAQ, not IRAK..

either pick up a weapon and fight for freedom or shut the hell up and quite slinging mud at our armed forces!!!!!

Posted by: Marti | July 12, 2008 3:05 AM | Report abuse

I am not a Democrat neither a Republican. I do think I will ever be one of them. Because both parties are just partisan jokes.

America is the only country where the majority of its citizens speak only English. the worst thing is that we have been tought that we should learn other languages. Or if someone does not speak English, that person is damn. How ignorant that thinking could be?. Please, you all who critisize Obama for that comment is out of the reality we are facing. At least, he is right on this.

Can anyone in this blog tell me how difficult it is for our men and women in uniform in Irak or Afganistan. I was reading the other day an article about the difficulties that our brave men and women encountered just because they don''t speak the language. For those of you ignorant conservatives, contact the Pentagon and they will explain to the difficuties they are facing and how much tax payers' money they spend just for tranlators in Iraq and Afganistan as good examples.

Posted by: irvin | July 12, 2008 2:19 AM

WHATEVER Irwin, you are an idiot if you really believe this crap!!

You think that in other wars that we fought in, we knew how to speak their languages?

You are an ASS!

And by the way, learn how to spell...IRAQ, not IRAK..

either pick up a weapon and fight for freedom or shut the hell up and quite slinging mud at our armed forces!!!!!

Posted by: Marti | July 12, 2008 3:05 AM | Report abuse

What a ignorant statement to make! In America, English is our native language.
I am so sick to death of hearing we as Americans should learn Spanish, why the hell should Americans learn Spanish?

There are plenty of other nationalities who also reside in our country, such as Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, you dont hear one word from these people about learning their language.

I lived in Japan when I was a little girl, my first schooling for the first 4 years was in a Japanese school.
I learned how to speak Japanese.
I lived in their country.

If I were to travel abroad and decide to live in another country other than the United States, of course I would want to learn that country's native language.
However all who decide to visit and become citizens of the United States of America should be required to learn our native language....and yes that is English and not Spanish!

People come to the United States of America because it offers so much, well, learn our language then, dont expect us to bow down and cater to a foreigner and adopt their native language, that is asking too much!

Why the hell should we abandon our roots and our English language because these people come to our country and are too damned lazy to learn our language!

It should be a requirement that they know our English language before they become citizens of our beloved country.

If we were to go to another country and demand that English only be spoken or that the country must learn our language, we would be ridiculed....as well we should.

Heaven help us if Obama wins the election!
I am a registered Democrat, however if he wins, God help us as a Nation!!

Posted by: Marti | July 12, 2008 2:55 AM | Report abuse

I am not a Democrat neither a Republican. I do think I will ever be one of them. Because both parties are just partisan jokes.

America is the only country where the majority of its citizens speak only English. the worst thing is that we have been tought that we should learn other languages. Or if someone does not speak English, that person is damn. How ignorant that thinking could be?. Please, you all who critisize Obama for that comment is out of the reality we are facing. At least, he is right on this.

Can anyone in this blog tell me how difficult it is for our men and women in uniform in Irak or Afganistan. I was reading the other day an article about the difficulties that our brave men and women encountered just because they don''t speak the language. For those of you ignorant conservatives, contact the Pentagon and they will explain to the difficuties they are facing and how much tax payers' money they spend just for tranlators in Iraq and Afganistan as good examples.

Posted by: irvin | July 12, 2008 2:19 AM | Report abuse

Let's talk about Sex, sexes, drugs, & lies!!

Posted by: imagination | July 12, 2008 2:17 AM | Report abuse

What a load of manufactured media BS. Obama is right, and in an age of globalization to suggest otherwise is nothing less than Neanderthal Republican ignorance.

Posted by: Oomingmak | July 12, 2008 2:10 AM | Report abuse

My child speaks french italian Greek Korean and Arabic, smart person you say. Yes very bright, educated in the best universities in this country. Where does one use all this knowledge, well in a few months back in Iraq. It is called stop loss for those who are not familiar with these two words it is military for you are screwed! Kerry got it so WRONG if your smart the military will find a way to keep you!

Posted by: Obama NO thanks | July 11, 2008 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh Relax O'Flip-Floppa.

I'll give you "Legalese";

You Machiavellian Lawyer You! ;~)

Posted by: RAT-The | July 11, 2008 10:58 PM | Report abuse

"Obama's remarks about Americans having their children learn Spanish were calculated and specifically pander to Latino voters, whose votes he desperately needs."

Goes without saying.

"Obama will say or do anything to get votes and money."

He learned well, watching the Clintons.

Posted by: Chuckamok | July 11, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Obama's remarks about Americans having their children learn Spanish were calculated and specifically pander to Latino voters, whose votes he desperately needs. Obama will say or do anything to get votes and money.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 8:48 PM | Report abuse

(Forgive my childhood German.) Ja, wir mussen mehr als ein aussprach sprechen. Yes, we must speak more than one language. I think that learning a second or even a third language is truly beneficial. In Germany, as a child and as an American dependent of a military man, I learned German. I have French relatives so it behooves me to know some French. My grandparents learned English when they came to America but also taught their children the language they had used in the old country (Armenia). America is a melting pot; think of how many different languages can be learned if we choose to do so. For example, I have grandchildren who have learned Spanish from their mother.
Many, many nations teach their schoolchildren English as well as other languages. It broadens one's horizons and makes us better aware of other countries' cultures.
We are in a global economy; it is unrealistic not to learn a foreign language.
Parlez vous Francais? Oui!

Posted by: abby0802 | July 11, 2008 8:46 PM | Report abuse

" ... isn't there an angry white guy website you can go to about to rant about how ..."

Well, SOME of us are speaking in other than English.

;)

Posted by: Chuckamok | July 11, 2008 8:25 PM | Report abuse

alison - Check into your Happy Place. Read some Maya Angelou.

Ranting about ranting is, well, sad.

;)

Posted by: Chuckamok | July 11, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

BHO was being extremely disingenuous, and it's too bad there weren't any real reporters around to call him on it.

In his earlier comments, he didn't just say learning a second language was great, he singled one out in particular and implied that Americans should assimilate to immigrants instead of the other way around.

For a real discussion of his remarks, see these:

http://lonewacko.com/blog/archives/007811.html

http://peekURL.com/zlu2bq6 (Weekly Standard)

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | July 11, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

wow, chuckamok and wayne. you make me embarrassed to be white. isn't there an angry white guy website you can go to about to rant about how "illegals" have ruined your lives or how it's offensive that we should read any writer who's not white and male. this sounds like a personal problem, guys...

Posted by: alison | July 11, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

I learned English as my second language which is now my first language, and I am proud to be an American. I disagree with Mr. Obama's statement; someone should concern if he/she does not know how to write or speak the language of his/hers country of origin or your choose to live in. I live in Miami, and many of the residents here do not speak English. If you decide to live in France,or any country abroad, and you do not speak its national language you will not be able to stay there for long if you have to work. So, before we invest on a second language, let's make sure we all know how to speak and write our first language.

Posted by: Lucia | July 11, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Obama wants illegals to have driver's licenses.

Remember Clinton got heat for first taking that position.

Obama got no heat in that debate as he was all over the map.

Obama will encourage so many illegals to come here it will be amazing.


Obama's legacy will be the flood of illegals here.


Obama wants illegals to have affirmative action to colleges everywhere.


Obama's supreme court justices will guarantee illegals always get affirmative action.


Obama is the best friend to illegals.

Illegals will give Obama the presidency.

Posted by: Wayne | July 11, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Obama wants to raise social security taxes on everyone. He said this to an Iowa voter to win his vote in the caucuses then flip flops.

Obama is not to be trusted.

Obama wants to do away with the marraige tax benefit.

Obamamania wants to no border security.

Posted by: Wayne | July 11, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Obama wants to stop all border security construction because of the enviornmental concerns. This was after he voted to fund the border fence but in a debate on univision flip flopped to win the hispanic vote. Obama is pandering to the illegals is working.

Obama wants to stop all raids on illegals.


We are at a crossroads with border security.


Obama would be a disaster in terms of border security.

Please I beg of you voters to do some research about Obama's positions.

He is far left. He was ranked the most liberal senator.

Please stop paying attention to the american idol glory Obama is getting and look at the issues.

Posted by: Wayne | July 11, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Refreshing. The Dems are responsible for the dumbing down of American education.

Math too tough for ya? That's bad for your self-esteem.

The classics of literature are inaccessible, due to your MTV attention span? It's that Euro-centric bias weighing us ALL down. The History of Rap in Modern Cinema is a more socially equitable class.

A grasp of the sciences? Modern science will provide a pill to make all that periodic table stuff so, well, old school.

All while teachers' unions, that MOST dependable of Dem constituencies, make sure our "educators" sink to the lowest common denominator (there's that pesky math stuff again).

Maybe Obama can make being smart socially acceptable again.

Anything can happen.

Posted by: Chuckamok | July 11, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

of course americans should be bilingual at least. children should be taught, starting in elementary school, another language or two. two reasons: a) we should get our heads out of our cans and realize there's a whole world out there and stop being ignorant, provincial retards. and b) it's good for your brain to learn a new language. it's so sad to hear some people on this blog content to be so limited.

Posted by: alison | July 11, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

That means I need to translate my web site to other languages.
http://www.buildmydatingsite.com

Posted by: Julie | July 11, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

What a joke the conservative movement has become. A couple weeks ago, they were all lionizing the passing of William F. Buckley, a man who learned French and Spanish BEFORE he learned English as a boy in a London day school. Now, a movement which claims to honor men like Buckley and Milton Friedman (fluent in French and had knowledge of German) as its intellectual father figures is reduced to crazed tirades. From Buckley/Friedman to Michelle Malkin. What a sad sad decline.

Posted by: Peter | July 11, 2008 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Being a very shallow collector of written language in non Roman writing (like I once could read menus and buses in Thai) I find the complainers about Obama's suggestion that everyone should be bi-lingual at least suggestive that theyu are typically lazy students who wouldn't try it when they were young enough to pick language up quicklyu, and haven't the gumption to pick it up now.

Still, Barack could demonstrate his bona fides on this issue, and give excellent example, by learning Spanish, Japanese, and Korean in that order. Spanish so that he can address his crowds in the south and southwest in one of their traditional languages. Japanese because it only requires learning 1900 Kanji (Chinese like ideograms) for full newspaper literacy, and gives moderate ability to deal with Chinese, and Korean to find out what a truly intelligent alphabet looks like.

And the real American Language? Pick a few hundred: Dine, Tlingit, Kwakiutl, Brule Ojibwa, Cherokee (even has its own alphabet) Choctaw (spoken by several Senators and Congress men in the early Republic). And Spanish? The oldest institution of learning in the U. S. taught in it for some two hundred years before us mumbling anglos forced changes by stealing the land it sat on in the Mexican war.

Then again, it would be nice if more of these English only curmudgeons spoke, read, and understood their only language properly.

O yasumi nasai.

Posted by: ceflynline@msn.com | July 11, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I speak English. I am not embarrassed by that. You can speak English if you want, too. Or you can speak some other language. I don't care. You can speak as many different languages as you wish. It's cool by me. If you don't want to say a single word I respect that. Nobody should be forced to speak any language.

Posted by: Andrew Austin | July 11, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

One World - Many Languages.

Speaking the language of your neighbors is a sign of respect, and a way to work better with your neighbors.

Those who do not communicate well, often end in needless conflict.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I used to work for the federal government in Maryland. Very few of the professional staff spoke more than English. The custodians were all bilingual. Most of the security guards, who were immigrants from Africa, spoke 3 to 7 languages. Generally, it is the poor that speak multiple languages, while the "well educated" speak only English.

One way to change this is to make foreign languages knowledge an important criteria for college admission, complementing other important factors such as ability at sports, extracurricular activities, prep school attendance, ethnicity/race and their parents being school alumni.

Posted by: Martin | July 11, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

CJB - you are hysterical!! "Obama is out of touch with reality. The average American has no need to speak a second language. " and then " I pray to God that people wake up before they vote for this man who will sell out our national security and tax us into poverty."
Aren't you talking about Johbn McCain there?
When you see missles going off in Iran, does that make you feel like the past 8 years of our "national security" policy have served us well?
Being multi-lingual is common in every country except the United States. I had 4 years of Spanish and I live in California. I'm glad I had those 4 years.
It's just amazing when people want to vote AGAINST learning. Yep. THAT is how the rest of the workld sees us under the Bush administration. Stupid, lazy, fat, undereducated. And if YOU believe Obama is going to raise YOUR taxes, you must be making over 225K a year. Good for you. Now go watch Fox news.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I find it hard to believe that in the year 2008, people still believe it's okay to speak one language. I would imagine that we would expect our children to travel outside of the United States at some point, and having been to Europe myself, I can attest that it is embarrassing to not be able to speak the native language of the place you are visiting. Having a strong nationalistic spirit is great, but when it borders on chauvinism, arrogance, and even jingoism, it can cloud reality. Let's wake up people - there's a whole world out there, and the U.S. is just one part of it.

Posted by: Jordan | July 11, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Along with the language lessons, or perhaps even more important, throw in a lession in geography as well.

Posted by: mj ex-pat | July 11, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

"Ignorance is not a path to greatness. Supporting continued ignorance doesn't help either."

"You are free to be ignorant, to advocate ignorance, and to implore others to reject learning multiple languages."

"And I am free to ridicule you for your voluntary, determined ignorance."


Very well said. Thank you.


Posted by: Linguist | July 11, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

To Cooday:

"Over 200 languages are spoken in New York City...."

How many individual residents of New York City speak, write, and read (fluently) more that ONE language? More importantly, how many speak, write, and read just ONE language fluently?

Posted by: SMAC25 | July 11, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Senator Obama in that it is shameful to not be AT LEAST bi-lingual. I am unable to converse fluently in any other language other than English and I have been trying to work on this fault. More knowledge is always better. No exceptions.

Posted by: Nick | July 11, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

No one has yet mentioned the case for Esperanto. It is a planned language which belongs to no one country or group of states.

Take a look at www.esperanto.net

Esperanto works! I've used it in speech and writing in a dozen countries over recent years.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Obama is out of touch with reality. The average American has no need to speak a second language. The only people who would benefit are those who live in areas where there are high number of people who don't speak English....like all the illegal immigrants he wants to keep here by raising our taxes to support them....or people who's career futures would be improved by being bilingual. I don't have any of these needs to speak other languages and am personally insulted by Obama's inference that I should be ashamed because I only speak English. And anyone in Europe who takes offense of that should thank their lucky stars that so many young American soldiers who only spoke English gave their lives so they don't all salute the swastika and German is their only language today. I pray to God that people wake up before they vote for this man who will sell out our national security and tax us into poverty.

Posted by: cjb | July 11, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

The problem with Obama's statements not only is he "putting down" America again, but he is also "talking down" to America. (Jesse Jackson should have been more inclusive in his critique of Obama). Again he is not suggesting or ispiring Americans to acheive more, he is telling us what he thinks is best for us, and how we must raise our children and what other decisions does he want to insist he make for us? Who wants an elitist, snobby, know-it-all for our President who has more enthusiam for failed, Euorpean, socialists ways than he has for the greatness that is America. He says he doesn't get it when people call for a National language - English. English just happens to be the language of the greatest country on earth and it is the language of commerce. All over the world people learn English so they can do business with America. Europeans learn other languages because they want to do business with their neighbors, and no, it isn't a bad idea if you're going to do business with Mexican companies or if you have Spanish speaking employees (legally here) that you should learn Spanish. But to say we need to learn Spanish (why not Chinese or Arabic? - because there is not a mass illegal migration of peoples from those countries?) to have Americans unable to get jobs because they are not bilingual, to try and insist we teach in mutlitple languages in our schools, etc., etc., is detramental to our society. And because we are not enforcing our borders to prevent an over population of non-English speaking people who have no real incentive to learn English quickly. No, immigrants need to adopt our language first, to read our signs etc. It is now the universal language of the world, rather than French which once held that status and it is the language that unites our diverse and proud country. In his book "Dreams of my Father" Obama was not impressed by Europe even the tiniest bit as is reflected inhis own writings and in the fact that he was not inspired enought to learn any of their languages afterwards. How does he know the immigrints will learn English? Look at Miami "forcing" people to speak Spanish or refusing to do business with them. This is outrageous, that is Un-American and should not be tolerated. France even put into law to adopt French as their national language so they would not lose their native tonuge and so they would not have the expense of create signs in mutliple languages and theirs would be the common language of the land. If you are going to live in France for any length of time,you'd better learn French and good for them! Viva la France! We must insist upon English here and see to that even native born children learn to speak it properly and correctly so they can have the best opportunity to advance throughout their lives and not be held back due to poor speaking habits.

Posted by: Dee | July 11, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

The reason? We've politicized everything in this Country, even Education. Politics from the top engenders apathy from the bottom. Politics, unless organized, is very ineffective; and ineffectivity equates to a lack of interest because there's no visible benefit - there's no incentive to "buy into" the system. Those who would be our "leaders", therefore, use political division to maintain their power and control over the people - ALL divisiveness - not just racial, serves the pockets of those at the top. And anyone who manages to escape the ignorance of mis-education is labeled unpatriotic; they are isolated with terms such as anti-American.

How often, these days, do you hear the term: Liberal Arts Eduation? This is the area of education where you'll find foreign languages not only taught but are "required" credits in order to graduate in an undergraduate program.

The dumbing down of American college students, by the way, begin with the Nixon Administration. The catalyst for this atrocity (this crime against our Nation's youth) came by way of the protests against the Viet Nam War by college students, primarily, from Ivy League colleges and universities. Ironically, it is our dumbness (our lack of the most basic knowledge), in general, that represents our greatest threat to our National Security. In general, we have become so ignorant that we are willing to vote against and/or oppose our very on selves - supposedly, to make some profound point.

Posted by: SMAC25 | July 11, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

We cant even penetrate other countires economic or military data bases because of our lack of multi-lingual people. more than that, according to the British Council (who has been promoting language and culture internationally for almost 80 years, English language learning will peak internationally in the next decade, and they advise their own citizens to learn one or more additional languages (Chinese, Spanish, German) of they want to remain competitive in the world market place. SOOOOOOO, other countries are loving the fact that we are so arrogant and chauvenistic as to give them even more leverage in the evolving world economy.

One last observation, English is morphing around the world, not unlike Latin morphed into Italian, French, Spanish and Portugese. In a morefew years Chinese english speakers will outnumber english speakers in the United States- and their brand of english is not ours- eventually we will possess a language as dead as latin

Posted by: To the fools in the cheap seats | July 11, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

One country one language. Pay attention to your neighbor's plight. and pass the turnips.

Posted by: All Seeing Eye | July 11, 2008 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Over 200 languages are spoken in New York City. This is what makes America great so many different cultures sharing their Art, Songs and their Stories in English as well as their own languages.

Gunalchéesh áyá x'axwdataaní (Tlingit)translates to "Thank you for allowing me to speak"

Qen Annu Yecholim!
Podemos Con Obama!
Barack Obama '08

Posted by: Cooday | July 11, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

VOTE LIBERTARIAN. Smoke weed, buy stocks and bonds, don't pay the IRS, and skrew the Government.

Oh yeah......SPEAK ENGLISH YOU MORONS.

Posted by: Reefer Madness | July 11, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Mexico considers itself to be Latin American (I know, it's not geographically correct...but what can one do?) AS to our friends to the north... we are more or less bound at the hip....with the exception of the Quebec separatists - which will be the Spanish separatists in this Country if we are not careful.

Posted by: Daddio on the Paddio | July 11, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Hes saying every other country in the world is bilingual. Hes not saying people shouldn't speak English here, hes saying we should have the respect to learn at least the neighboring languages and not look like arrogant asses when we travel.

Posted by: come on | July 11, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

We should not need to learn a second language to communicate in our own Country. We are not Europe - we are the UNITED States. Anyone who thinks we need to speak more than English in our own Country (not in others mind you - where we should speak their native tongue) is a fool and has not traveled the world. I have - doing business on 4 continents - in English - the de facto language of Business and Science.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

We need to maintain a SINGLE NORTH AMERICAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE.

Press 1 for English, press 2 for deportation.

Posted by: Daddio on the Paddio | July 11, 2008 4:32 PM

Naturally, since Mexico and Quebec have seceded from North America.

Posted by: aleks | July 11, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Forget English, commies. We only speak AMERICAN here.

Posted by: Greg Ohio | July 11, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

LOL. I'm not sure about Press 2 for deportation, but I agree that this is America and thus English is the top most priority. BTW, I would even go so far as to say, that is not necessary to have Spanish or any other language prompts when you call companies that are based in US. Everyone, not just in America, but in the world should speak English when given a chance to educate themselves.


==========================================

I like Obama but he is making it difficult to do so on a continuing basis. THIS IS THE USA - we speak English - not farsi or spanglish, or yiddish or arabic or a gazillion other languages.

Let Obama make sure that all the Hispanics learn English - or kick them out of the Country. We need to maintain a SINGLE NORTH AMERICAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE.

Press 1 for English, press 2 for deportation.

Posted by: Daddio on the Paddio | July 11, 2008 4:32 PM

Posted by: America First | July 11, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Dear sonofhistoryprof...are you over 21 and living on your own?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Senator Obama, will we need to know each language if we take a trip across Europe to make you and Michelle proud enough to serve as our President and First Lady?
Is this the CHANGE you're talking about is to shame us into being multilingual? Man you're good!

Posted by: theaz | July 11, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

It's hilarious that Republicans preach global trade, endless nation building, and cultural isolationism. How exactly are Americans supposed to compete in the global economy if we're also supposed to cripple ourselves by refusing to learn foreign languages or customs?

Posted by: aleks | July 11, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

No Mexican, Guatemalan, Salvadorean, Colombia, or Peruvian flags flying in the US of A. All immigrants should be required to speak English before they get a green card or citizenship. No signs in Spanish or French - except at the airports. NO SPANGLISH SPOKEN HERE.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

MEMO TO XENOPHOBES:

Advocating against speaking multiple languages makes you look like an idiot or a bigot, and perhaps both.

Ignorance is not a path to greatness. Supporting continued ignorance doesn't help either.

The greatest thing about America is the freedoms - the freedoms she endows to all, and not just to your friends or people you like.

You are free to be ignorant, to advocate ignorance, and to implore others to reject learning multiple languages.

And I am free to ridicule you for your voluntary, determined ignorance.

Posted by: SonOfHistoryProf | July 11, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I like Obama but he is making it difficult to do so on a continuing basis. THIS IS THE USA - we speak English - not farsi or spanglish, or yiddish or arabic or a gazillion other languages.

Let Obama make sure that all the Hispanics learn English - or kick them out of the Country. We need to maintain a SINGLE NORTH AMERICAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE.

Press 1 for English, press 2 for deportation.

Posted by: Daddio on the Paddio | July 11, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

We can start a program for No Senator Left Behind to teach foreign languages and geography to the poorly educated senators.

Posted by: babar1 | July 11, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Look at how big Europe is and how many different languages are right next door to each other. That is why many Europeans speak many different languages.

I once spoke with an Ukrainian doctor who said he envied Americans since you can go all over your country and be able to communicate with everyone easily in your native tongue.

Just goes to show how ignorant Obama is.

Posted by: Eric | July 11, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

The only upside I see to Americans speaking one language is that it drives business to translations companies like mine. We're happy to help any monolingual people out there.

Buen fin de semana a todos!

http://pandltranslations.com

Posted by: Janine Libbey | July 11, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget that Obama looks strong in the Mountain West. The latest poll of NORTH DAKOTA (out yesterday) has him TIED with McCain! Details:

Posted by: Dan | July 11, 2008 3:47 PM
----------------------------------------
Don't expect that to last Dan because this is basically Springtime for Obama so these are probably the best poll numbers he is going to get.

As he is forced into more specifics about what he actually believes he will lose votes. Western states that look promising to Democrats in early summer tend to fade away in the fall the way states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey do for Republicans.

I would not make any bets on Obama winning in North Dakota if I were you.

Posted by: danielhancock | July 11, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Here in Houston, not being bilingual isn't just embarrassing, it's a handicap. If you're not bilingual, good luck finding work. It's not an option here, it's a requirement. Don't like that - too bad - it's reality.

Posted by: JDB | July 11, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

wait, so you are NOT supposed to eat the cream? (Enzite topical rush)

Posted by: jakeD's shadow | July 11, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget that Obama looks strong in the Mountain West. The latest poll of NORTH DAKOTA (out yesterday) has him TIED with McCain! Details: http://campaigndiaries.com/2008/07/10/thursday-polls-north-dakota-migrates-into-the-competitive-column/

Posted by: Dan | July 11, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Trilingual - speaks three languages
Bilingual - speaks two languages
Monolingual - Americans

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Warum nicht?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Obama - Oh Mama. A look at the phenomenon of Obama's selection and the enthusiasm of his supporters. Obama Oh Mama The Temptation, The Mantra, The Consequences
I hope you will consider it at zachjonesishome.wordpress.com. Specifically: http://zachjonesishome.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/obama-oh-mama/

Posted by: ZachJonesIsHome | July 11, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama is not really being fair to American tourists visiting Europe when he compares them to European tourist visiting the U.S. The Germans, the French, and the Spanish are taught English in their school because the U.S is more important than their individual countries. So they only have to learn one languange to visit the U.S. But Americans must learn three to four languages to visit the comparitively balkanized countries of Europe.

Obama is basically right wen he speaks about the value of learning foreign languages but the cocky tone that he takes in this speech is not endearing to many people. I am sure his consultants have notified him of this and are working with him on it.

Posted by: danielhancock | July 11, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Thank God I'm a hispanic woman who speaks English and Spanish. Try to get a good job in Miami without being bilingual. Those of you who don't speak other languages don't know what a disadvantage that is. I wish I could speak other languages besides English and Spanish, but I'm at least better off compared to most Americans. God Bless you guys!!!!

Posted by: carl29 | July 11, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

WP Editors:

If you want to know how voters think, please let them provide their IDs when they post a comment.

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Posted by: JakeD | July 11, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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