Blog: Humbled by my ability to speak only English

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TUMBA, Sweden ― Last week, while attending the Cow Longevity Conference in Sweden, I got to meet people from all over the world.

Everyone was fluent in English, which made it convenient for me and some of the other Americans in attendance. I simply don’t know any other languages besides English.

One evening, I was at a table of fellow journalists ― three from Germany and one from Russia. Every now and then, the others (even the Russian) would speak in German, but mainly they spoke in English in deference to me.

Bottom line: I was humbled by the fact that I could participate in a conversation as long as everyone chose to speak English.

Since English has become the second language for many people around the world, it’s probably best to count it as a blessing.

It would be impractical to learn Swedish for just one trip to that country. (Interestingly, cross the border into Finland and there is a completely different language spoken.)

It doesn’t let us off the hook, however.

As some of the speakers at the conference noted, Spanish is an important language to learn in the dairy industry because of the large number of Hispanic workers and managers. Not only does it allow you to communicate effectively with the workers and managers, it shows that you cared enough to make the effort.

Now I wish I had paid better attention to my foreign-language teachers back in junior high and high school. It’s so much harder at my age. 

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George Roemer    
Hartford, Wisconsin  |  September, 05, 2013 at 02:18 PM

During a recent Farmer to Farmer volunteer assignment in Mali, West Africa, I was assigned an interpreter who spoke five languages; English, French, Baramka and two local languages from the Ivory Coast, his homeland. As a Peace Corps volunteer in East Africa, I learned Swahili after graduation from college, an instance in which there was no alternative. Learning just a few words of greeting or salutation in a host country language will indicate respect for the foreign culture. We Americans seem to have trouble learning the metric system, let alone other languages. Let's hope that changes!

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