Re: [langue-fr] L'anglais est-il une langue universelle ?

From: Erland Sommarskog (
Date: Thu Jan 04 2001 - 17:30:05 EST

Elliotte Rusty Harold <> writes:
> When I was in Denmark, one evening I ate dinner in the hotel next to
> a couple of French businessmen. They communicated with their Danish
> waiter in English, quite easily, then went back to conversing in
> French. Scenes like that are repeated around the world thousands of
> times every day. That simplicity is possible when everyone shares a
> language. Now imagine what happens if the waiter, instead of learning
> English in school had happened to learn German and Norwegian. And the
> French businessmen had learned Spanish and Italian.

That is not an imagination. It is happening. Not the least to people
who think English is enough.

Many years ago I was in Greece with my mother. At some occassion we
passed a place where there were a lot a water in the street. We were
curious on what was going on, so we asked a local. However, he knew
neither English nor German nor French nor Swedish which were the
languages that me and my mother mastered. But he claimed that he knew
some Spanish.

Or let me take another anecdote. I was in Soifa, and stayed in a private
room. The charming landlady explained to me were the facilities were,
and that she herself was to sleep in the kitchen, because she already
had one room occupied. She did this in the only language she knew:
Bulgarian. I know a wee bit of Russian and just another wee bit more
of Polish. But, together with her careful and gentle gesturing, that
was enormous help.

The moral is simple: the more languages you know, the better the odds
that you will able to communicate.

> They'd have been reduced to a lot of gesturing and trying to decode
> a menu in not particularly comprehensible Danish.

When I'm on travel I am occassionally presented a menu in English.
This is not at all as helpful as it may sound. Why? Because I may
not always know the names of the dishes in English, but I usually
have a Swedish dictionary for the local language with me.

And I for one much rather have the menu in Danish than English...

Kan jeg få et smørrebrød, tak?

Erland Sommarskog, Stockholm,

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