The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #29 September / October 2017
Letter From The Editor
Language Confusion
by Erik Zidowecki
September / October 2017 | 

I was sitting in a waiting room one day when I noticed a Muslim couple sitting a few feet to the left of me. Another American woman was sitting across from me and started talking to the Muslim woman. The man was focused on his phone and didn't pay attention.

Basic questions were asked, like "Where are you from?" (Iraq) and "How long have you been here?" (3 years). All very pleasant. The Muslim woman didn't speak English very well, but the other woman complimented her with "You speak English well. I don't speak Iraqi, or whatever it is you speak."

I cringed.

As language lovers, we pride ourselves on knowing about a ridiculous number of languages and their attributes, including where they are spoken. We understand that the media and the general population normally don't know the difference between a language learner and a linguist, or a translator and an interpreter. Still, maybe we can help clear up some of the confusion about which languages are used by each country?

The most common languages are pretty easy: German is spoken in Germany, the French speak French, Japanese is the language of Japan, etc. "Chinese" is spoken in China, and we really don't nitpick over which version.

However, Brazil speaks Portuguese (or Brazillian Portuguese), not Spanish. Spanish is also spoken in Argentina, not "Argentinian". "Deutsch" is not Dutch. Dutch is spoken in the Netherlands, not "Netherlandish".

There are over a dozen languages spoken in India, and none of them are "Indian". Nor is "Indian" spoken by any of the indigenous people of North America.

There is no "Middle-Easternese" or "Middle-Eastern" language. There is no "Africanese" or "Egyptian" language. English is not a Romance language. Pig Latin is not a real language.

Norwegian is not Norse.

No one speaks "Mexican".

And lastly, English is a product of England, not the United States. We brought the language over from there as a colony.

These are just common mistakes people make when talking about languages. What confusion about what and where languages are spoken have you heard?

Erik Zidowecki

Letter From the Editor - Language Confusion
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
Petey: Woman with map

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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