English First - Nashville

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 12 19:28:49 UTC 2009

At 1:17 PM -0600 1/12/09, Dennis Baron wrote:
>The question boils down to "what does speak English mean?" -- in
>India, estimates are about 5% speak English in a recognizable way:
>there are the America and UK- returned (the been to's), and those who
>have gone to legitimate English-language schools in India; those who
>can read and write in English on a daily basis (nespapers, business
>documents). It's a lot of people, numbers-wise, but not
>proportionally, for a country where English enjoys special status.
>Don't know the score on Nigeria, but I doubt that 79 million Nigerians
>actually use English regularly, effectively. And while millions study
>English in China, Chinese proficiency remains fairly low, in general,
>with obvious exceptions.  And so despite obvious English dominance in
>US, UK, Australia, NZ, there are those in Nashville, Texas,
>California, Miami, who shout that English must be protected or it will
>disappear, who believe what the late Samuel P. Huntington wrote, that
>the American dream can only be dreamt in English (though the sacred
>texts of Christianity can be freely translated from their originals
>without loss of comprehension or salvation).

Or, to combine these observations, "If English was good enough for
Jesus, it's good enough for Texas schoolchildren".

--attributed, probably falsely, to Texas Gov. Ma Ferguson


>Dennis Baron
>Professor of English and Linguistics
>Department of English
>University of Illinois
>608 S. Wright St.
>Urbana, IL 61801
>office: 217-244-0568
>fax: 217-333-4321
>read the Web of Language:
>On Jan 12, 2009, at 12:59 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>Subject:      Re: English First - Nashville
>>At 12:05 PM -0500 1/12/09, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>>At 3:22 PM -0800 1/11/09, Dave Wilton wrote:
>>>>I too disagree. Unless you lower the standard of what qualifies as
>>>>English" to an absurdly low level, there is no way that there are
>>>>more than
>>>>300 million English speakers in China.
>>>Why would that many be needed.  The claim reported by Wilson (not
>>>that I'm endorsing it, or even that he is) concerns which country has
>>>the most English speakers *after* the U.S., so the likely competition
>>>would indeed be India, followed I assume by the U.K.
>>Oops.  Just found this:
>>Apparently U.K. trails Nigeria, as well as India and U.S., even as a
>>first language.  I wouldn't have guessed there were 79 million
>>Nigerians who speak English as a first language.  On this table,
>>China comes in at 15th, with 10 million speakers of English as a
>>(non-first) language, basically tied with Spain.
>>>>That's one third of the population.
>>>>Personal observation: when I was in Beijing, we had to use an
>>>>interpreter to
>>>>communicate with wait staff in restaurants, even those that catered
>>>>primarily to foreigners. (Hotel staff, on the other hand, pretty
>>>>much all
>>>>spoke English.) Interpreters were a must in most business
>>>>meetings. I was in
>>>>environments that would be particularly favorable to finding English
>>>>speakers, but they were relatively rare. Once outside of Beijing,
>>>>and Hong Kong, I'm sure the percentage of English speakers drops
>>>>precipitously. Compare this to Europe where most service workers in
>>>>metropolitan areas speak English quite well (even Parisian
>>>>waiters, who
>>>>choose not to) and where business professionals virtually all
>>>>speak English
>>>>pretty much fluently.
>>>>India, on the other hand, I would be more inclined to believe, but
>>>>there, 300 million would be a lot.
>>>>-----Original Message-----
>>>>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
>>>>Behalf Of
>>>>Benjamin Barrett
>>>>Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2009 2:56 PM
>>>>Subject: Re: English First - Nashville
>>>>I find this difficult to believe. It would surprise me if it weren't
>>>>the case that applying the same criteria to the US would find that
>>>>America has the largest population of French speakers in the world.
>>>>After all, we do say adieu, double entendre, prix fixe, moi?, etc.
>>>>On Jan 11, 2009, at 11:58 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>>>Not to mention that English is the (foreign) language of choice
>>>>>world-wide. Isn't China reputed to be the largest English-speaking
>>>>>country after our own?
>>>>>On Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 9:00 AM, David Metevia <djmetevia at chartermi.net
>>>>>>>From today's NYT:
>>>>>>Councilman Eric Crafton hopes to make Nashville the largest city
>>>>>>United States to prohibit the government from using languages
>>>>>>I don't understand the concern as we will continue to be an
>>>>>>language country as long as the majority of the population is
>>>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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