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Thread on "Language Banditry"

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140 messages over 18 pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 1 ... 17 18 Next >>
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 6396 days ago

417 posts - 427 votes 
Studies: Spanish, Japanese, Thai

 Message 1 of 140
14 January 2009 at 8:34pm | IP Logged 
Previously on various occassions I have voiced my dissatisfaction about being the victim of what some term "Language Banditory" or often "English Banditory".

At first I thought I was just making a big deal out of something which isn't really that serious. However, now I know that it is more serious than what everyone makes out now that I have encountered many people who express similar viewpoints. Although many poeople don't take serious the opinions of these people and just make out that they are overreacting, the fact that now others hold my opinion give me the needed support to confirm that my attitude towards the issue is justified and reasonable.

You see, in the ocassions in foreign countries in which I rigidly stood my ground when approached by "English Bandits" and continued to speak the local language, not giving up any ground at all, in those ocassions, I used to often feel like an a-hole for being so stubern. I would actually feel bad because I really like acting like a good friendly person and usually dislike face to face confrontations. I prefer a peaceful life and normally want to be liked. However, upon reading the opinios of others on this site, recently introduced to me, I know believe that my reactions are justified and acceptable. Just like the way I respected and understood the attitudes of the language immersion extremist Kohei who I mentioned in my other thread on eyecatching individuals.

I am thankful to have encountered the comments of this site which is against Language Banditory. I personally believe that the site was well made and give credit to its creator.

It reinforced my idea on the ignorance on the parts of certain groups who believe that they can make assumptions about people based on their skin colour or ancestry. In this case European ancestry. I suppose we are one homogenous culture right? The site really shows that they are foolish in their assumptions.

The site which this thread concerns also has sections on reactions like "coping stategies" which one can take in order to deal with an event in which one feels victimised my the actions of language banditory. It makes me feel better about myself when I read the anecdotes to others who feel the same way as I do. Now I can evaluate the extent to which my reactions are acceptable and also have more ideas or coping stategies for the ocassions in which my personal space is invaded.

I would like to explain that I don't have double standards on the issue. When I meet foreigners in my country whose objective is to study my language and achieve full fluency, I don't maul them at all. Even though I really like practicing with native speakers, as a responsible adult and someone who considers themself to be honest, fair and having a strong sense or morality, I just realise and accept that I have a need to control myself, respect others, acknowledge their own personal objectives (not just my own), and treat people not as objects, but as human beings.

Parasitius, thanks for the thread buddy! I really appreciated it!

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Senior Member
Joined 5524 days ago

185 posts - 287 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, French, Swedish
Studies: Thai, Vietnamese

 Message 2 of 140
14 January 2009 at 9:15pm | IP Logged 
I understand this well, and it is the curse of the English speaker ... bi-lingualism kills your language learning opportunities.

The reality as I see it, is that when communicating, the honest language to communicate in (if it were a negotiation) is the strongest pair. So for example, in Montreal it is common to meet hispanophones who are fluent in Spanish and French, but speak no English. My Spanish is stronger than my French, so the best language combination is Spanish. Similarly, if I am speaking to a Swede, and his / her English is stronger than my Swedish, then it is almost an insult to insist upon Swedish.

It is only language banditry if they are forcing you to speak with them in bad English even though that is not the natural strongest language pair (i.e. your command of their native language is stronger than theirs of English). For example,you would not speak to another native English speaker in Japan in Japanese, right? Then by extension if you walk up to a Japanese who studied their MBA in the United States for example and speaks fluent English and asked for directions in Japanese, and he replied "It's OK, I speak English ... head north on ..." it would be fine. He is not "using you" for practice since his English requires no practice. It is only language banditry when they are forcing you into baby-talk English when it is not even close to the strongest communication pair.

Given that, I have a coping strategy that I used to use in Argentina. If they want to force English on me (despite my fluent Spanish), I would reply to them in EXTREMELY fast spoken, colloquial Australian English, with over-use of Australian slang including rhyming slang and the such (it would sound stilted in Australia) that even an American would struggle to understand. When their eyes glaze over, you give them the "D'ya understand?" and when they say "no", you repeat the exact same thing in Spanish. This underlines the nature of the strongest pair.

Now that is not a very nice strategy because you are basicly telling them "Your English is such rubbish that you can't even understand it ... we will speak Spanish" even though you have not given them a fair chance. It feeds into their embarassment that comes at being unsure of yourself in a foreign tongue ... they came to you all proud of their English ability with their tails wagging, and you are smashing their confidence to pieces. But hey, if they want to be friends for more than just someone to practice their English with, we can come back and practice a little English once we have a friendship and the language of that friendship is established to default to Spanish. Then I can compliment him / her on their English and restore their confidence. But the supremicy of my Spanish has been established.

Edited by SlickAs on 14 January 2009 at 9:35pm

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Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 6396 days ago

417 posts - 427 votes 
Studies: Spanish, Japanese, Thai

 Message 3 of 140
16 January 2009 at 6:43am | IP Logged 
As for the honest language, I see it as being the local language by default. That is as long as the foreigner can handle the language and has a functional level.

As for this idea of a functional level where one can handle oneself in the language, I personally don't even consider realising any kind of trip or immersion program until I get to this stage. In other words, I will not go to the country of the target language until I can hold me own completely and until i can allow myself "not to be bullied around" by anyone (on a language level of course". Basically I think immersion is of little value in my opinion if one doesn't have down the fundamentals or a decent level of functional vocabulary and functional skils in the given language. This was so when I went to Japan though I admit I was worring about this just before. Before entering the country and enrollong in a language school for the whole summer, I made sure that I was at a level in that I couldn't be forced to speak English by anyone. In other words I reached my goal before going of not being "bullied around" linguistically. In fact, I was so studies that in my class, I ended up being considered the most skilled speakerand was considered best at writing. Basically I believe that by preparing so much in advanced, I earned the write to be spoken to in Japanese. Without going into this personal anecdote too much, the point is I alway wait until I have enough to be able to handle myself in the language, therefore don't see myself compelled to speak anything but the local language when participating in an immersion course or the like.

Similarly, when I travel so many miles and spend so much hard earned monly on the language projects, when I arrive I say to myself (In the case of Japan) I have a Japanese only policy. And I when I was in Japan I maintained this throughout. When people (Japanese and Japanese learnong foreigners) ever tried to force English on me, I never gave them an inch. I always stood my ground. That was my policy. At least I was honest to it.

I used to be so passive as a person, now I am developing the very assertiveness which my parents have always encouraged me to have. Now I just think I don't owe anyone anything for free, so I never give in to their banditory.

As for the need to reply in English to Japanese who speak really fluent English, I would still speak Japanese. Because I can hand myself. I don't see them as having any power to coerce me I will not be submissive to them just because they are better than me in one particular skill. Do I think that a world championship boxer has the right to demand that I box which him and has the right to beat down on me just because he is better than me at boxing? No, I don't! I would persist and keep on. That is necesaary for improvement.

The truth is, the Japanese foreign exchange students it my university who are studying English are often in fact not as skilled as they ought to be. In fact I think that my Japanese surpasses the English of some of them, namely because they hand around with their own fellow nationals all the time. Even though my Japanese surpasses some of their English, I still don't feel that I have the right to coerce them and force the language on them. I accept that in England the default language is English and that I must respect not only this, but also the fact that they have a personal objective of their own. English study. I never act like those English Bandits that you can find abroad. Some people think that I am extreme in my language stues thus an a-hole, but at least I have a good sense of honesty and respect.

As for your comments on English people in Japan and how I would address them, the truth is I probably would look to make friends with English people in Japan. I want to immerse myself in the culture and not form a little community like many British expats do. When abroad, I have no interest in haging around with English people all the time like other foreigner do. My amd some friends who will be all going to Japan on exchange programs have all made a pact that if we end up at the same place, we are not going to contact each other. We are all serious about learning.

What I say, just don't give anyone any ground. You owe nothing free of charge to noboby.
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Super Polyglot
Joined 6350 days ago

9078 posts - 16473 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 4 of 140
16 January 2009 at 10:38am | IP Logged 
I agree with the preceding members: IF you are strong enough in a language to communicate on a decent level in it, then you should stand your ground and stick to that language, even if the person you are talking to speaks perfect English. In fact I would only consider yielding to those that speak bad English because they might need some training - and even that only in an area where they can't find lots of other tourists to train their English on.

In most cases I don't have any problems getting people to speak the local language, - after all I only do it when I know that I can carry through without getting into problems. In the few cases where people have continued to speak English I just carry on in the local language. In a few cases where people have commented on this I have said the equivalent of ...

1) I'm not English so I have no reason to speak that language
2) Don't you like to speak your own language?
3) It is confusing to skip in and out of English, so I stick to your language

I have kept the following one in reserve:

4) So far everybody else has been able to understand me, so why should you have a problem?

However as I said earlier I haven't had too much trouble, - it is probably worse for those who try to learn for instance African or Asian languages, because the locals don't expect pink longnoses to speak their language.

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Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 5485 days ago

1473 posts - 2176 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*
Studies: German, Russian

 Message 5 of 140
16 January 2009 at 1:43pm | IP Logged 
They are not "Bandits"!

They want to practice English just as much as you want to practice the local language! What's wrong with that? They may not even be able to afford to travel to an English speaking country, whereas you are able to travel to theirs!

Do them a favour, be a sport! After all, you're already there, already 'immersed' in the language..

If it's so important, just speak with someone else instead.

Or perhaps it's a case of "their English is better than your_______"? If so, then they're just being practical.

I am not a native English speaker, but I speak very near native English. This seems to be a problem that only bothers native English speakers.

I wouldn't care in the least if somebody wanted to speak English with me for the purposes of practicing their English (I totally sympathise..) or because my command of the other language is worse than their command of English.. (usually the reason why somebody switches!)

If it bothered me, I suppose I'd resume my studies in the language in order not to give people a reason switch.

Anyway, they are only going to switch to English if:
1) You have a very strong English accent (American accents stick out the most, so try to subdue it...)
2) You are struggling or not making much sense...

(If you don't give away the fact that you are English by your accent, then they probably won't switch as fast. A Caucasian looking person with a non-descript accent is not always automatically assumed to be English speaking.)

Lastly, imagine the following scenario: You are a British person who speaks passable French after studying it for many years in school. You rarely get a chance to practice. Somebody comes up to you on the street, attempting to ask directions in apalling English with a very strong French accent. You are busy, but willing to help, so you switch over to French and start trying to help them.. They then get annoyed because you are not prepared to speak English with them!

Finally very slow very basic conversations are DULL! While your brain is working overtime, the native speaker is bored to tears... !

Edited by cordelia0507 on 16 January 2009 at 2:05pm

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Senior Member
Joined 5850 days ago

296 posts - 382 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Catalan
Studies: Arabic (Levantine), Arabic (Written), French

 Message 6 of 140
16 January 2009 at 3:27pm | IP Logged 
I can see both sides of the argument. I can understand people wanting to practice a language they're learning and the excitement of having a native speaker showing up out of nowhere. On the other hand, oftentimes people just want to go about their day/life and are not really there to tutor the random person on the street who is clearly using them and would have no interest in them otherwise. I would imagine the constant interruptions would get tiring.

Another thing is that I feel like this is viewed very differently depending on the culture you come from. In the (very PC and diverse) area I grew up in, you would never address a foreigner in another language unless you were clearly a NATIVE speaker in that language, you knew the person very well, or they obviously could not speak English. Otherwise, it is almost like you are rejecting them from local society, saying "you're not one of us and your English, which you have been speaking for years, is worse than my ---, which I just took in high school. (I wonder if this is similar in other places.) On the other hand, I think in some places it's the opposite; you may seem rude if you don't try to speak the other person's language, and by speaking their language you are trying to make them more comfortable. (I am just guessing here!)

The only thing that really bugs me about this is that I feel like people do refuse to use the local language to English speakers, even when the English speakers are trying to communicate in the local language, and then we hear all these complaints (see posts on this forum, as well as anywhere else) that English speakers just go abroad and speak English all the time.

Also, I am annoyed when non-native anglophone people insist on speaking English to non-native English speakers. This just makes no sense to me! For instance, recently here in Spain I witnessed a conversation between a Spanish woman and a Brazilian man in which the Spanish person started out in Spanish, the Brazilian person answered in Spanish and the Spanish person, upon hearing his accent, switched to English. The Brazilian very politely tried to do the same, but it was clear that he understood and spoke very little, whereas he had understood and answered the woman's original question in Spanish without problem. Things like that just boggle my mind--why insist on speaking English in this situation?

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Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 5485 days ago

1473 posts - 2176 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*
Studies: German, Russian

 Message 7 of 140
16 January 2009 at 4:34pm | IP Logged 
anamsc wrote:

Also, I am annoyed when non-native anglophone people insist on speaking English to non-native English speakers. This just makes no sense to me! For instance, recently here in Spain I witnessed a conversation between a Spanish woman and a Brazilian man in which the Spanish person started out in Spanish, the Brazilian person answered in Spanish and the Spanish person, upon hearing his accent, switched to English.....

I feel the same thing. I hate speaking English with a German person. My language, Swedish is quite close to German and traditionally many Swedish people speak it.

If it becomes necessary to switch to English with a Danish person it's practically blasphemy - the ultimate defeat of Scandinavian unity... Other Scandinavians, don't you agree?

I can see how you feel exactly the same of Portuguese vs Spanish; also similar languages and mutually understandable (?) with a bit of good will...

Sometimes I wish that ESPERANTO was the commonly spoken language among Europeans. It would be more fair to everybody, and easier to learn.

English could then be saved for communication with people from other continents.
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Senior Member
Joined 5470 days ago

215 posts - 224 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, English
Studies: German, Japanese

 Message 8 of 140
16 January 2009 at 7:43pm | IP Logged 
cordelia0507 wrote:
I can see how you feel exactly the same of Portuguese vs Spanish; also similar languages and mutually understandable (?) with a bit of good will...

Yes, Portuguese and Spanish are completely understandable to each other. I, in fact, have studied my high school chemistry for the final test through a Spanish book I found in a "sebo" (kind of a used/old books store).

And I have never once in my life studied Spanish, not even a look at it out of curiosity.

Speaking English with a Spanish-speaking person just makes no sense at all.

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