Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chapter 56: Sometimes it's embarrassing to be an American.


On a topic unrelated to beer, at least at the outset, it seems to me that if not for the existence of bilingual residents of the nation of India, low labor and operating costs alone would not be sufficient for multinational companies to locate there.

Granted, outsourcing is a complex and partisan topic, but the simple point is that if there is to be such a thing as a global economy, whether great or small, one absolutely critical factor in understanding its impact has to be the role of language skills.

Except, of course, in the quintessentially American cultural wilderness … which brings us back to beer.

Bar owner on 'We Speak English' window sign: If you don't like it, call me

MASON, Ohio (AP) — A bar owner who faced a discrimination complaint over a message in his window has removed a sign that read "For Service Speak English" and replaced it with one reading "Here We Speak English."

"If someone doesn't like it, have them call me," Tom Ullum, owner of the Pleasure Inn in this city northeast of Cincinnati, said Tuesday.

There’s a town in Argentina called Ullum, although the name sounds German or Scandinavian.

Anyway, the first thought that strikes me is the sheer counter-productivity of it all. It’s highly doubtful that the relatively small percentage of Spanish speakers are entering Mr. Ullum’s bar and attempting to pay for his ice-cold light beer and vintage pickled bologna with pesos, bolivars or colones. My guess would be they come bearing dollars, which are reputed to spend the same irrespective of their speaker of origin.

It’s just as unlikely that their language proficiency poses any real problem in communicating in the international dialect of Retailese.

During a quarter-century of travel throughout Europe, I can’t recall a time when it proved impossible to convey simple thoughts even when there was no linguistic common ground – even in France, the target of so much yokel wrath in the States.

It’s amazing what can be accomplished if one simply desires to get along with other human beings.

Perhaps that’s the language Mr. Ullum doesn’t speak.

2 comments:

David R. Pierce said...

One could always use the Buddy S. model: Everyone speaks English if you say it loud and often (repeat as required)enough.

antzman said...

On another note that makes me proud to be an American, a gentleman with a number of teeth I could count on 1 hand, came in and asked for Alaskan smoked porter. When I informed him despite my utmost wishes to have that beer handy and for sale, I don't believe you can find it east of the Mississippi River. He walked on muttering something about our communistic market, where a man can't find the beer he is looking for. Amen Brother!