I’m back from my honeymoon and I learned a few things while away…

  • Beautiful tropical islands really are pretty breathtakingly beautiful.
  • Relaxing is very nice but can get old after awhile.
  • Reading books is fun and I should do it more often.
  • The English language seems to be as close to a universal language as exists in the world, as sad as that is.
  • The food where we live may just be the best in the world. We are generally at least a little disappointed everywhere else we go.
  • My French still sucks.
  • Taking a boat directly to and from the airport is pretty neat. Taking a helicopter directly between two hotels would be even neater (maybe next time).
  • Bathing with flower petals is cool but makes a big mess afterwards.
  • California-made wine is on restaurant menus even in French Polynesia. Crazy!

Now that I’m back in the real world it’s time to get back to all the things I was doing before I got all busy.

9 thoughts on “Things I learned on vacation

  1. Your write: “The English language seems to be as close to a universal language as exists in the world, as sad as that is.”

    Why do you think that is sad? Do you have some aversion to English? Is there another language you would prefer to be the universal language? Or do you just disdain the ideal of a universal language? Would you prefer that people have no common language and be unable to talk to each other?

    Have a nice day.

  2. On an aesthetic level, English has always seemed a bit blunt and whiney sounding compared to many other world languages, but I’m also probably biased since I’ve been hearing English my whole life.

    I think my main issue is that English speakers already seem to be somewhat unlikely to learn other languages and it’s sad to me that there may not really be any real need for us to do so. It’s always fun to learn other languages, but if it’s not a necessity a lot of people just won’t bother. I know enough French to say I know some French but not enough to talk to anyone and after visiting both France and French Polynesia I have still not really needed to improve on it.

  3. You know, the reason a “a lot of people just won’t bother” to learn a new language (and not just English speakers) is precisely because it is not “always fun to learn other languages”. For adult learners particularly it is time consuming, tedious and difficult. So I think you are wrong in that.

    In addition, if you really think about it, learning more than one language is a waste of time that could be put to better use solving real-world problems or enhancing one’s expertise in a useful field of endeavor. I believe that it would be better for all of mankind if we all spoke the same language. We would then be able to communicate directly with one another without the inefficiencies of and the errors intrinsic to language translation. Surely that would be a good thing.

    Your disdain for English as “blunt and whiney sounding” appears a little like self-loathing to me since it is your native language. Are you politically left leaning, say a liberal or a progressive? That would make sense to me since American leftists seem to be filled with self-loathing and disdain for their native country. If so I urge you to be proud of being an American. This is not such a bad country (and I know from experience). If not, no offense intended.

    Finally, you state that “it’s sad to me that there may not really be any real need” for English speakers to learn another language. I regret that I must disagree with you on that too. Soon you folks in California will absolutely have to speak Spanish just to get along. (¡Sí, se puede!)

    And eventually we will all have to learn Chinese after the fall of America and the rise of the People’s Republic of China to sole superpower status. Don’t you agree?

    Have a great day!

  4. Would it also be better for the world if we all had the same religion, ate the same food, held the same political views, etc? There are concepts and emotions that can be easily expressed in one language but can’t really be expressed at all in another. Thinking that the world would be a better place if we all only spoke one language is awfully narrow-minded, in my opinion. Any benefits would be far outweighed by what we would all lose.

    It’s just a simple fact that English is not an especially elegant sounding language. I don’t think that makes me some sort of America-hating communist, or whatever. English has done a good job of incorporating aspects of other world languages and it’s sometimes more efficient than some other languages. There’s always good with the bad!

    It is true that American liberals tend to be highly critical of our government’s actions but that does not equate to disdain for the country itself. Quite the opposite, I think!

    Regarding China and the future, I think the next century will likely be pretty interesting.

  5. First of all, Dallas, I’d like to salute you for your self-reflection and fact that although English is your native language, you still see things further in essence.

    Serbian is my native language, it is quite complicated (it would take me ages to explain differences and you would still have problem to grasp how and why is it so?!) but still I have fluency in it and some constructions are a nice game that could hardly be translated into other language.

    Differences makes us richer, much more than bucks or Buicks.

    If you ever considered philosophy as serious sport, not having it experienced in German language is like learning baseball over telephone line. You may have trouble to take that one from me, but it is. It is hard as hell to translate it and to preserve fluency and subtleties.

    Even American English (variants that I am not personally too fond of), in some areas, and certainly when spoken by some, could have beauty in it. I would suggest, if I may, a film ‘Naked Lunch’ based on novel by William S. Burroughs, whose poem Thanksgiving Day you can read here: http://realitystudio.org/texts/thanksgiving_prayer/ and hear here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7Z_08o108E

    Try reading Shakespeare or watching English movies (I believe that is as hard in USA as watching film from India in Europe) and you will find vocal and word games strange even to your english ear. I recommend “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead”, cult Tom Stoppard variant on Hammlet:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosencrantz_&_Guildenstern_Are_Dead

    And English was far from being an easy one. Does anyone remember not so distant past when it was common to say “Thou shall not kill”?

    One could never find all intricacies of own language, not to mention other, non-native.

    As I’ve seen we have some similar music interests. However, try and give a shot for Rammstein (any work, seen ‘We all live in America”) or Einsturzende Neubauten (Haus der Luge, quite interesting opening and whole album).

    And as for Mr. Guillermo: you could be republican but we will not take that as negative side of your choice. As you HAVE the choice, you can choose to be open or not, to read this or not, to agree or not. But no one grants you the right to choose for someone else what is right for that person. Once big guns agree on that one, war will be just a coloquial term for standing fiercely for your belives. And I will also stand for yours IF and only if you want me to. Just stand for.

    My only sword is missing s as first letter.

  6. The best food in the world is in California? Reading your posts, you don’t sound like the typical American who goes to McDonalds while on vacation in France… so I’m sort of perplexed…
    I’d say Japan and France have the best food by far. It is subjective but… US? The best food? I don’t get it.

  7. The food I ate in Paris was on the whole good, but uninteresting. It was all sort of heavy (in typical French fashion). We did go to a 4-star restaurant and the food there was quite good but not really better than what I’ve had here. The service, on the other hand, was quite amazing. There are some very good restaurants here that approach it but it’s still in my mind as the best dining experience I’ve ever had. The French are known for their culinary service as much as their cuisine itself.

    I have unfortunately not yet been to Japan. I definitely will be going there sometime pretty soon and experiencing the food will be up on the top of my travel todo list. Japanese food is among my favorites so I’m sure it’ll be a treat.

    Regarding my local food, you may be underestimating the whole California Cuisine thing! It’s good stuff!

  8. Dear dallas,

    I did not say that it would be better if all the people of the world had the same religion, ate the same food, held the same political views, etc. It is misleading of you to even imply that I hold to that view. All I said was that maybe people could understand one another better if they all shared a common language. It doesn’t have to be English. Frankly, I would prefer it to be my native language (which is not English). I suspect that eventually it will be Chinese.

    I suppose that I am not as well educated as you are for I only know a couple of languages. I am not aware of the “concepts and emotions” that can be expressed only in one particular language. I will accept what you say at face value since you seem to have better language skills than I. But that idea seems peculiar to me. Aren’t all human beings equal? Don’t they all have the same wants and needs and desires? Why should one group have “concepts and emotions” that the other groups do not have? Would you please provide me with some examples?

    Also, I did not call you a communist (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I merely asked if you were politically left leaning. I did so because it has been my observation since coming to this country that the political left in America never says anything good about the country (while the political right is always talking about how America is #1). Maybe the leftists think that America is a wonderful place. But all I ever hear them say is that America is corrupt and racist and greedy and evil. Since they are Americans it seems a bit like self-loathing and that is why I said what I did. In retrospect I, since I am a guest in your country, maybe I shouldn’t haved asked that question. But I was curious and, as I said in my earlier posting, I intended no offense. Please accept my apology if I offended you inadvertently.

    To return to the point, in my original message to you I asked several questions. While I am not clear of all of your answers let me see if I can summarize your viewpoint.

    Guillermo Q. Why do you think it is sad that English is a near universal language?
    dallas A. Because it is “just a simple fact that English is not an especially elegant sounding language” and English is “blunt and whiney sounding”.

    Guillermo Q. Do you have some aversion to English?
    dallas A. No, but English speakers are “unlikely to learn other languages and it’s sad … that there may not really be any real need for us to do so” since “It’s always fun to learn other languages”.

    Guillermo Q. Is there another language you would prefer to be the universal language?
    dallas A. No, see the answer to the next question.

    Guillermo Q. Do you disdain the ideal of a universal language?
    dallas A. Yes, because “There are concepts and emotions that can be easily expressed in one language but can’t really be expressed at all in another”.

    Guillermo Q. Would you prefer that people have no common language and be unable to talk to each other?
    dallas A. Yes, there is beauty in having different languages and so I don’t want everyone to have a common language. I want them to talk to each other by learning each other’s languages because “It’s always fun to learn other languages”.

    Is that a fairly accurate summary of your viewpoint? If not, please elaborate.

    In closing I just want to say that while English is not my native language I find it very useful and even beautiful. It has many words borrowed from other languages (including my own) and in that sense is more universal than any other language that I know of. (In France there is a government agency dedicated to the purity of the French language that works to keep words from other languages, notably English, from entering the French language.) Furthermore, I have lived in several different countries and I like America. I think that native-born Americans should be very happy to live here and should be proud of their country and their language.

    Have a nice day!

    Regards,
    Guillermo

    Note to Mladen: I do not fully understand your message. I guess that Serbians are very complex thinkers. Let me just say that I am not trying to “choose for someone else what is right for that person”. I just asked dallas some questions so that I could better understand his point of view. It seems odd to me that he doesn’t like his native language. I have never heard anyone in my home country say that they don’t like the language or complain about it being “blunt and whiney” or anything like that. Of course, this is America and Mr. dallas if free to think and say anything he wants to about English. And I am free to be curious as to why he says those things. Don’t you agree?

  9. Hello again, Guillermo!

    I believe I very much misunderstood you previously and I am sorry. I did take some offense to what you said but I see now that you were asking genuinely curious questions and not trying to imply anything else! I will try to explain myself a bit more thoroughly.

    I don’t actually speak any languages other than English. I know some French but not enough to communicate effectively, unfortunately. I’m one of those Americans that’s never managed to fully learn another language! You speak English quite well and I suspect you are at least as well educated as I am, if not more so.

    I do see significant value in reducing barriers to world communication and a single universal language would definitely make a lot of things a lot easier. The world is getting smaller every day and the opportunities to communicate with more people are exciting and interesting. I believe that will happen and I think it is likely that English will be a front runner if there is to be a world-wide vote to choose the universal language. That’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, by the way. I know there will not be a ‘vote’ and it’ll just happen gradually over time.

    The main reason that I think it would be sad for English to become a worldwide dominant language is that I don’t think it’s fair that Americans who, in my experience, tend to not learn second languages will possibly never need to do so. I think it’s a great thing to learn another language because it can give you increased insight into your own language and into communication in general. I think everyone should speak at least two languages! I agree that English’s distinctive mix of words from other languages is interesting and unique and I do actually find it to be generally pleasant sounding when spoken by people other than Americans. Americans tend to not enunciate very well (myself included!) and there’s a few sounds that are uniquely American (in my experience) that are just not very elegant sounding. Specifically I’m thinking about the short ‘a’ sound as in ‘bag’ and ‘cat’. That’s not to say it pains me terribly to hear it… I just personally find foreign languages to be more elegant. That may just be because I don’t understand them and it’s unique and new. I like new and different things! Note that this is not really an especially deeply felt stance of mine and I’m only even elaborating because you are curious.

    You are definitely correct that politically-left leaning Americans tend to be critical of our government and that criticism can sometimes extend to ‘the country’ itself. There is a tendency among liberals in America to not consider themselves as ‘normal’ Americans, but somehow superior and more worldly. When they say things like ‘America is greedy’ they are usually referring to the general ideals of the culture and less so about specific people. I do think we’d all get along better if the liberals would lose their superior air and acknowledge that they themselves are also part of the problems they complain about and we all have to work together to solve them. There are still people in powerful positions in America that deserve to be criticized, though! However, I don’t think me criticizing our language on an aesthetic level really has much to do with my thoughts and opinions about the US government. I think that’s just reading more into it than is really there. I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek when I said “America-hating communist”. I mostly just meant that I don’t think my opinions about the language itself should be interpreted to mean anything more. In America there is a pretty long history of calling anyone who says anything anti-American a communist and I was just using that as a tool to make my point, which I apparently did poorly!

    When I referred to the “concepts and emotions” only present in specific languages I was referring specifically to certain Asian concepts that I don’t quite understand myself but have heard references to. There are words and phrases in Japanese, for instance, that are difficult to translate into English because they represent cultural phenomenon unique to the Japanese people. I wasn’t trying to say that people in other cultures are unable to appreciate or should be somehow deprived of these unique and interesting ideas. I was only trying to say that it would be a shame to lose the original words and phrases for those concepts and to replace them with English (or Chinese or what have you) versions. I think we need to work to preserve all of the unique and great things about all languages because once they’re gone we won’t be able to get them back.

    And on to the questions and answers!

    Guillermo Q. Why do you think it is sad that English is a near universal language?
    dallas A. Because I think it would be good for Americans to learn second languages. I would love to do so myself but somehow I never do.

    Guillermo Q. Do you have some aversion to English?
    dallas A. Only minor aesthetic issues with American English.

    Guillermo Q. Is there another language you would prefer to be the universal language?
    dallas A. Not any specific language, no.

    Guillermo Q. Do you disdain the ideal of a universal language?
    dallas A. I think it would be sad to lose all of the richness and beauty of all of the languages of the world. I do agree it would be much easier to travel and do business world-wide if there was only language spoken everywhere, though!

    Guillermo Q. Would you prefer that people have no common language and be unable to talk to each other?
    dallas A. I think a universal language is an inevitability and will come eventually. I only hope the unique aspects of all of our world’s cultures that are tied into the language are somehow preserved along the way. Clearly there is much more to a culture than its language but languages are a unique and wonderful aspect that should be respected and revered. I also hope people will continue learning additional languages even after there is no specific value in doing so. Sadly I suspect that will not happen enough and less popular languages will slowly start dying.

    I very much appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on this!

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