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The Sad Reality Of the English Speaking Privilege

The Sad Reality Of the English Speaking Privilege

Globalization is inevitable. With the ability to instantly connect with someone on the other side of the world, we are closer than ever. Yet is globalization simply a synonym for “Americanization”? With McDonald’s (or “McDo” as the French call it) cropping up everywhere while Timber blasting in the clubs, the United States of America seems to have forced its way into nearly every corner of the world.

In Pau, I am blessed with a diverse classroom with students from all over the world. My class has every continent represented, with the obvious exception of Antarctica. When discussing our home countries, a student from Brazil brought up the idea of USA being the modern day Rome. At first this idea seemed bizarre, but after I let it sink in I realized how accurate that observation is.

Whether it is positive or not, the USA is the center of world as Rome was many years ago before it met its tragic end. Like Rome, the USA has an incredibly powerful military, an expansive trade system, and, most importantly, a shared language. What differs with Rome is how it conquered new lands and forced Latin upon them. The USA goes about the spread of the English language in a slightly more crafty manner. English has become the language of trade. As a result, people all around the world learn English in addition to their native language.

How does this all relate to this American student studying abroad? Well, being in France has made me realize how much of a privilege I have as an American. Many Americans discuss the male privilege, or the affluent privilege, yet we all forget that we have an American privilege.

Even in the small town of the south of France, I can find English speakers and discuss things in my native tongue if I am too lazy to speak French. Then I look at other foreign students from Japan, Romania, Russia, Korea, etc., who are struggling with learning French and cannot fall back on the English language crutch that I abuse.

You may be asking: well doesn’t this apply to Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and any other English speaking county? It is absolutely does, but as Americans we take it one step further. These other countries are much more thorough in their foreign language training, while the USA fails to teach Spanish properly despite its continuous growth of the Spanish speaking population.

With our privilege, we do not have to learn another language. This a reality that we must be proactive about and begin to change.

It is not limited to the language either. Miley Cyrus is still twerking, Meryl Streep is still a goddess as she cries onscreen, and President Obama is still smiling ear-to-ear as he walks with Michelle. American culture is everywhere in not just France, but all over Europe and Asia as well.

It is so easy to lose sight of everything as an American. Other countries have music, movies, books, politics, social issues, and many other things that we must being to pay attention to. With us being closer than ever, it is more important than ever to understand other countries and languages.

If you are American and reading this, leave your English language privilege behind and begin to globalize yourself rather than further Americanize yourself. My goal is understand as many cultures as I can as I slowly retire my English language crutch. I am blessed with this opportunity to live abroad and I need to begin to identify as a citizen of the world, rather than a citizen of the United States of America.

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