mardi 20 août 2013

Which future for America?

There was this article in the NYT some days ago and I was musing about the perception of American identity by current white American citizens.

I explain: What do Latinos care about the history of the US or Native Indians who have nothing to do with England and the British colonies except that their arrival meant the beginning of their downfall?

And colored people as well as Americans with Asian ancestry, I guess they couldn't care less about the Indian wars, the Siege of Yorktown or the Civil War (except for Black people of course since that battle marked the beginning of the end of their plight).

Europe also knows a great influx of immigrants mostly from Africa and Arabic countries and the process of integration is far from being an easy one.

My guess is that Turks in Germany don't care a fig about former kings, princes or dukes and that they hardly know who Bach, Goethe or Kafka are or that a German monk named Martin Luther was at the origin of the most major split within the Christian Church, a split which eventually caused the migration of thousands and thousands believers to the New World. On the other hand they’re free from any guilt regarding Auschwitz or Edith Cavell (don’t mention her name when you’re having an Englishman and a German as guests in your house).

The difference between our two continents being that, according to all demographic projections, white Americans will be the minority in America about 30 years from now whereas native Europeans will remain a strong majority.

How do white Americans feel about this trend which tends to illustrate that a nation of colonists eventually is submerged by other immigrants because in a world where all nations have at least hundreds and hundreds of centuries - if not millenaries - of History, new comers just arrive too late and will always lack what lays at the core of all nations.

15 commentaires:

Flocon a dit…

For what I know, about 11 million illegals are about to be granted American citizenship or are they? Which is about 15% of the current American population. Not insignificant but no one can stop the march of History.

Anijo a dit…

How do white Americans feel about this trend which tends to illustrate that a nation of colonists eventually is submerged by other immigrants because in a world where all nations have at least hundreds and hundreds of centuries - if not millenaries - of History, new comers just arrive too late and will always lack was lays at the core of all nations.

Well, I am half white, one quarter hispanic and one quarter Native American Tewa. Also I grew up in an area where there is a lot of Mexican culture and there are a lot of Mexican immigrants. Of all the states, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Latinos. So I have not noticed any change vis-à-vis immigrants in my life over the years. As for the English, I encountered a number of Brits when I was in France and they came across as rather friendly. I guess I just don't have any strong feelings (love or hate) about white people, Latinos, Mexicans, or Brits. I really do believe that there are all types of people in every country. Sure some people from various countries are anti-American or anti-French or anti-Latino etc etc but I only encounter this from reading comments on the internet.

I correspond with some French-speaking people on Skype that I met on a language-learning website. They're wanting to improve their English and I'm wanting to improve my French. One of them is an man who grew up in Algeria, but he currently lives in France. He comes across to me as actually being French. He speaks French fluently. He says that he loves France and the French people. He feels that he is culturally a mix of Algerian and French. He is perfectly assimilated into French culture. Of course, he's just one example. And he's a highly-educated open-minded individual. He is a Muslim, and yet he says he is against the wearing of the veil. He's very liberal minded.

My other correspondent is from Quebec. What's interesting is that he says he feels closer to Americans than he does to the French. He concludes that the reason for this is because our countries are so near one another and both of our countries are historically new. Now, he is also a highly-educated open-minded individual, and again just an example.

I also have two French correspondents who are also open minded. There are enough open-minded people on this planet to balance the more close-minded types.

Anijo a dit…

I've been meeting more and more French people because I participate on three different language-learning sites. I must say that most of them are unfailingly polite and kind, and they have a wonderful sense of humor. There are a lot of wonderful people in this old world... or in this new world in a cosmic time of frame ;)

Flocon a dit…

" he says he feels closer to Americans than he does to the French".

I am not surprised here and it may seem a bit unexpected to many Americans but indeed the links between Québec and France aren't particularly tight (not that they're particularly loose either) but one would expect stronger bonds between the two; Just that Québec isn't an independent country so the relations between the two partners are what they usually are on the diplomatic stage between two nations.

The culture from Québec (but also they're just over 8 million inhabitants with a non insignificant number of Anglophones among them) isn't specifically popular in France, be it the films, the books or the music.

That guy is very popular though and of course there are many other names but this one must be the most famous of them.

By and large, French speaking Canadians consider they've been left behind by the French, which is true though not one single living French person can be held responsible for that. Put the blame on Louis the 15th and the Treaty of Paris (1763).

Many young French people settle in Québec (and particularly Montréal), not that they're particularly fond of this Canadian nation but there are more job opportunities over there.

Also, considering the appalling level of English of most French people and particularly of these expats, going to Québec means they live in the New World without having to learn a foreign language.

As to the language (the accent as a matter of fact), it can be very strong to the point that French TVs often under title the footages (which I find exaggerated and rather disparaging for our cousins as we call them).

Quebeckers live on another continent so it is normal that most of them feel closer to the US although they're very affirmative about their Quebequian (?) identity.

I didn't know it was possible to exchange conversations on language-learning website. The Internet is a daily miracle indeed!

I sincerely wouldn't have the courage to improve my German the way you do Anijo, though in the 80's I spent hundreds of hours working at it but mainly to no avail.

Flocon a dit…

"I must say that most of them are unfailingly polite and kind"

We know you have a feeble for educated, polite and decent people Anijo...

But it is great that you know how to occupy your time between the Internet, your garden, possibly the painting etc. Ever tried the Sudoku?

Which part of the language seems rather difficult for you to improve Anijo? The pronunciation? the grammar or the vocabulary? Is there one where you feel more comfortable than with another one?

Anijo a dit…

Hi Flocon,

As to the language (the accent as a matter of fact), it can be very strong to the point that French TVs often under title the footages (which I find exaggerated and rather disparaging for our cousins as we call them).

The Québécois who I speak with once in awhile told me that he went to Paris one time and that people couldn't understand him. I found this odd because I understand him well enough. Of course, I do notice that he pronounces certain words quite differently than the French do. I wonder what you think about what this Québécoise has to say.

Yes, they are affirmative about their Quebecian identity.

Yes, I've tried Sudoku and I enjoy it. Just as I enjoy chess. I like those types of games which exercise the brain.

Anijo a dit…

Which part of the language seems rather difficult for you to improve Anijo? The pronunciation? the grammar or the vocabulary? Is there one where you feel more comfortable than with another one?

I'm wanting to improve all three. On this one language-learning site you record yourself repeating sentences in French and then French people critique your pronunciation. I've been told that my accent is very good. One weakness is that I sometimes forget the liason. Here's one comment someone made:
Très bien! Pour encore plus de perfection, pour le mot "cuisine", vous dîtes "cu-i-sine" alors qu'il faut mieux dire "cui-sine" pour cela essayer de prendre les lettres de l'alphabet en français "Q-I" pour dire "cui" (assez rapidement bien sûr)

And someone else said, "good accent, juste you must say "cuisine" not "couisine"

But to my ears I'm saying it correctly, so I don't suppose I'll be able to correct this, but I'm going to try. One other person said my pronunciation was very good and I had a slight accent but that it was "adorable" which is rather embarrassing, so I know I need to work harder to have a better accent. The nice thing about French is that, unlike English, one can be sure of the pronunciation of most words. There are a few exceptions such as "femme" and of course there are a lot of exceptions with proper nouns.

And I want to improve my vocabulary although I know enough to carry on a conversation. Sometimes I'll say something like "femme de maison" and my interlocutor will respond, "femme de foyer". So although I say things incorrectly, they understand.

Now it's the grammar that is the most difficult. I used to be so confused about verb agreement until I learned the following:
The past participle of any verb conjugated with être in the compound tenses has to agree with the subject in number and gender.

Verbs which take avoir as the auxiliary verb in the compound tenses do not normally require agreement. However, when the direct object precedes the conjugated verb, the verb must agree with it.


And I have to improve my use of the imparfait indicatif, imparfait subjontif, and présent subjonctif. After I get those straight, I'll move on to plus-que-parfait. I don't worry much about passé simple since I can understand it and because I don't ever plan to use it myself.

Anijo a dit…

By the way, this is a great website for hearing people pronounce just about any word in many different languages. If you can't find a word, you can add it. I'm part of this site and I record my pronunciation of words in English that need pronouncing.

Anijo a dit…

I just heard "sac" pronounced and to my ears it's pronounced different than "lac".

Flocon a dit…

Phew! many things to answer to here.

Re the first video you linked to, that of the Irish guy speaking with a girl from Montréal.

Of course the two have noticeable accents and the girl definitively has the typical Quebecian accent to a French ear. One blatant example is at 0:50 when she says "vocabulaire". She makes it sound "vocabulaaaaiiire".

The French that is spoken in Canada is that of the French peasants who emigrated over there in the XVIIth century which is interesting in terms of linguistic. I personally like the sound of it but not all people do.

Now, I'm afraid that if you try to better your French accent by speaking with French speaking Canadians you may not get the result you're longing for though... Like me corresponding with s.o from Austin only to see how it works in L.A...

You know Anijo, I remember how sweet your very light accent is when you linked to your videos and other people also tell you it is good and you know it is, so I wonder if trying to make it even "better" is such a good idea after all. Unless one works like mad (and even so), it is nearly impossible to sound like native speakers. So if your accent gets a 18/20 (say B++), isn't it spending much, much time and energy in the somehow false hope it can even be better? Wouldn't the time and energy and dedication better spent in enlarging the vocabulary?

My accent in English (be it Brit or American, but there are hundreds of them) is fairly good I know because I suppose I have not too bad a musical ear (despite my current impairment that has come with age) and that I like the sounds of languages in general but I've gave up long ago the need to better it since I know I'm perfectly understood with Anglophones I have the opportunity to chat with.

I'll tell you what: When I started learning English 50 years ago (oh my!), our teacher didn't make an absolute point that our pronunciation should be top notch whereas another teacher was obsessed with the international phonetic alphabet with the result that all his 35 pupils (aged 11) were totally disgusted after some months and lost to English as a foreign language.

(To be followed)

Flocon a dit…

(About the sac/lac thing, there must be some misunderstanding here since sac (bag) and lac (lake) do sound exactly the same. But it may depends if you heard "sac" pronounced by a Canadian or an Algerian.

Also, (pendant que j'y penses), ce n'est pas "femme de foyer" mais "femme au foyer" (woman at home).

---

1°) - The pronunciation site is quite useful I guess and the four who say "Cuisine" have all their own way but I can ear they're foreigners. On the other hand, everyone knows what they refer to so what's the point of spending hours to improve what is already near perfect in terms of comprehension (that's what learning foreign languages is all about after all isn't it?).

"I know I need to work harder to have a better accent" and this is where I disagree ;-)

I you want to ear French spoken and improve your own skills you should listen to this 24/24 French international TV channel full screen.

2°) - French vocabulary is much less extended than the English one so it is also "easier" from your side than the opposite.

Many years ago I too was very ambitious in terms of enlarging my vocabulary in English until I eventually accepted the idea that there was no use learning words that perhaps I would meet once per year (or even less) in my reading of the IHT, Time or Newsweek.

I remember you told us you twice read (in French) Les Misérables and that left me amazed because, for what I remember, the first 100 pages or so were crammed with words I had never heard before nor after. If memory serves right, c'était la description du mobilier d'un évêque au début du XIXe siècle en province.

Participating to SF's blog has improved my level of English (except the pronunciation of course) to an extent I didn't suspect was possible only through reading and posting comments on the Internet.

Too much ambition can be detrimental to the ultimate goal of learning a foreign language methinks since eventually we're talking about communicating and reading the papers and hearing what they say on TVs and radios.

3°) - I've never put any major effort in learning the English grammar. In my opinion this is an absolute kill joy and the best way to learn is to hear and read how the natives do until you integrate the hows and they come out naturally after one has made numerous errors.

The entire text above contains mistakes but I guess you understand 100% of what I want to convey.

You know enough of French grammar by now and as pertains the past participle I can assure you that it is the trickiest part of our language and few people master it me included.

Anijo a dit…

Black magic man

Anijo a dit…

Flocon,
Sorry to delete so many comments, but upon reflection they came across as rather ridiculous lol

Anijo a dit…

Imagine all the people... living life as one.... you may say I'm a dreamer... but I'm not the only one

Anijo a dit…

Well, I'm still doing some of those lessons. The one I'm working on now has this sentence: "Si nous étions en France, nous mangerions de la baguette". It's accompanied with a picture of a man with mustache, wearing a beret and a striped shirt and holding baguettes. Talk about perpetuating stereotypes!