Listen to What I am Saying (Paper 3) — By Sydney Ouwinga


To be honest, I’m not really sure if language counted as a form of mass media. I know it is a form of mass communication, but I was not a sure about whether or not it could be considered a form of mass media. Regardless, I really wanted to talk about the differences in language between the United States and Scotland, but not just the language spoken. Instead, I wanted to touch on the acceptance of other languages and accents and the way other languages are broadcasted.


You see, in the United States, we have one official language. This isn’t necessarily abnormal for a country, but even our neighbor to the north, Canada, who is like us in many respects, has a second official language due to the fact that there is a large population of French speakers. Their French speaking people are matched in our Spanish speakers, yet we do not grant them the same curtesy. Granted, the population of French speakers in Canada is 21% as opposed to the population of Spanish speakers in the US being closer to 13%; however, this calculates out to be 7 million people for Canada and 40 million in the US — 40 million people who are essentially unrecognized. The reason for this is a very American way of thinking in that we tend to ignore our history as a land of immigrants from all over the world in favor of the more romantic notion of being an English colony that fought for independence and won. America is very much in love with this significant part of our history, and I would argue that because of it, we have set the American standard as white and English speaking. We have it in our heads that when we hear another language, the person speaking it cannot be a true American. They have to be a visitor of some kind because how dare they think they can come into our country and fail to learn our language. I have seen it myself of one individual talking to another, assuming they were only visiting the United States on vacation, and the realization that the supposed “visitor” considers lives in the United States and considers themselves an American citizen. There is a change in expression of sudden unacceptability. The be American seems to mean that you have an American accent and you speak American English. Anything else is less than American.


We even refuse to learn other languages. When I was in high school, in order to graduate, each student was required to take two semesters of a foreign language. You cannot learn a foreign language in two semesters. You can barely have a conversation with someone, and you certainly won’t retain a bit of it past a year. In other countries, students are required to learn another language very young. For instance, I visited Italy on this trip, and someone there informed me that they were required to take five years of American English while in school. When I asked why specifically American English, he told me that his teacher had informed him he had better learn the Americans’ language because they damn well weren’t going to learn his. I thought that was really interesting, and truthful when you think about it. The US has this mentality that it’s the most important country in the world, and if anyone wants to interact with it, they had better change to fit its needs rather than the other way around.

That’s just not the way it is in Scotland. They are willing to learn other languages and are extremely accepting of them, at least from my experience. If you walk into a pub or a shop, you’ll probably see a large Scottish flag. They are incredibly loving of their country, just like the United States is. However, you’ll probably also see a number of other, smaller flags from around that world, which gives a very welcoming quality. That’s not something you’d see in the US. If you talk to a Scotsman, they won’t flinch or stare at you in surprise when they hear your accent. It’s normal here. In America, they’ll look at you strangely, treat you like an exciting find, and ask where you’re from. I haven’t been asked that question once here. My accent could be American or Canadian for all they know, but the thing is, they don’t care. You’re a person. That’s all that matters.

IMG_2061When it comes to broadcasting, we visited BBC Scotland , and they talked a lot about their Gaelic television and radio shows. The BBC, the major television and radio network in the UK, actually broadcasts dramas, comedies, game shows, radio shows, news casts, and who knows what else to the public, and treats it as if it is a very important IMG_2067part of BBC Scotland as a whole. This is in no way the case with Spanish speaking shows in the United States. To be fair, this is not a perfect comparison as Gaelic is Scotland’s native tongue with English being introduced and popularized by their southern neighbor, England, while Spanish is, in a way, a more foreign tongue to the IMG_2074United States. Surprisingly, however, the percentage of Spanish speaking American citizens, as I mentioned in the second paragraph, is about 13%, while the percentage of Scottish citizens who were able to speak Gaelic at the time of the 2011 census was 1.1%. That percentage is massively smaller, and yet, in comparison, the Gaelic broadcasts are treated with more respect and care than Spanish broadcasts in the United States. Typical Spanish shows in America are trash dramas, soap operas, or news shows, are underfunded and therefore cheaply made, usually have bad acting and writing, and are not considered to be very good, or in the news’s case, reliable. They are basically a joke, and often swept under the rug, but BBC Scotland was actually quite proud of their Gaelic contributions. They may not have been the biggest portion of what they did, but they did it none-the-less, and gave it all of their effort.

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