America Misunderstood HTML version
Why people abroad have this frightening image of us?
We export equivocated “foreign” culture.
You may be surprised to find out how often and why “AMERICA” is so
misunderstood by so many people around the world. Misunderstandings result
from the peculiar way we see the world and from the peculiar way the world sees
us. “How come?” you may say, “American films, books, and television programs
are well known all over the world.” Exactly, the fact that we downpour our culture
on so many peoples creates most of those misunderstandings!
The causes for misinterpretation vary. However, we provide almost all of
them. The world sees us through fun-house mirrors provided by us. Through
similar mirrors we see the world and even ourselves in a peculiar way, too. The
most noticeable of these fun-house mirrors is our language.
After listening to claims and complaints from people all over the world, I
found out that English, our English, causes most of these misunderstandings.
“But English is almost universally spoken!” you may say. Basic English yes!
English, no. In fact, most English speakers do not believe that those who are not
native to the language will ever get to learn it well. Furthermore, being a
language, which is not mutually intelligible with any other, English instills in us a
sense of alienation characteristic to such languages.
England created the English language, but the USA was the nation that
turned it into the richest language on earth and a formidable communication tool.
It was our nation, open to changes, immigration, new mores and new ideas that
made English universal. We have ethnic groups from every corner of the world
and each of them has contributed to make English what it is today.
Nevertheless, absorption has been too fast sometimes, leaving no room for
analysis. Once the majority accepts a simple word or phrase, that word — or
phrase — freezes, allowing no correction or adjustment in spelling, meaning or
pronunciation. Rectification rarely happens in English.
This inability to rectify and correct words is the dark side of the English
language. The expression “coining” clearly describes what usage does to a new
word or phrase: it makes it metal solid. Incorrigible usage gave us a multitude of
traditional errors nailed them so deeply into our minds that no one can hammer
them out of our heads.
Contrary to most European languages, English develops rather freely
America - Page 4