Am I the only person who doesn't find most of Europe or North America interesting enough to justify learning and retaining facts about its geography? I have a feeling I would do okay with the European map if I really applied myself (or at least I'm probably not stupid enough to put freaking Uzbekistan on it; I don't know if Americans in general are aware of Central Asia
as its own distinct cultural and geographical region; I have a feeling that most even today after what seems like a million years in Afghanistan would think that those countries are part of the Middle East), and I've been to most of the United States except for New England (I've only been to MA; that's enough for me...ship it back to Old England, please), but sheesh...I hate to agree with Cyrillic, but much of the USA is culturally homogenous and frankly pretty boring. We can and do easily divide up into cultural zones because there are only a few sort of macro-cultures that represent most of the country, and the same is true for Europe if you really think about it. I know, I know...you have many countries and languages (most of which are from one family, but y'know...shhhh, Europe
is so much more interesting
than North America
), and I'm really proud of you, but where do you think the USA got most of its boring, ignorant white people in the first place? I'm looking at you, England/Germany/France/Scandinavia/Slavic countries. You did that.
No. In American states they all speak English, vote for the same two parties, pretty much have a shared history, watch the same shows, eat the same food (with a few exceptions) and listen to the same music. Not so in Europe.
There's probably a large degree of sarcasm in the above reply (or at least I hope there is...you really want to knock us because we don't have the wonder that is Eurovision to showcase our lovely native talent? Hahaha), but it still deserves pondering...particularly the language part...
In addition to an untracked number of tri-and-above-linguals (and the non-English monolinguals Gabriel was complaining about), in the USA of today we're close to twenty percent bilinguals
. Not so impressive compared to Europe, I guess, but 20% of 300 million is still 60 million people, which is what...equal to about 12-13% of Europe's total population? And that's without the comprehensive education mandates to teach another language comparable to what I understand is the norm in most of Europe. We could and should be doing a lot better (and like the article I just liked says, we are becoming more multilingual these days), but the perception that the USA is a monolingual country is not true. It has a monolingual majority, but it's important to realize how these perceptions are formed: European census' actually ask different questions about language than USA census' do
, which lead Europe to have a higher overall incidence of bilingualism than the United States. I am willing to bet that if the European census asked the USA census' question (or vice-versa), we'd see very different statistics about language use on our respective consonants.
This is all in addition to obvious differences in geography and such that make it easier to be a monolingual in the USA than in Europe. Moving from California to New Mexico was about 1,200 miles, if I remember correctly. In that space, I crossed over one state (Arizona). Sometimes when I fly home, I cross over part of another (Nevada). In covering roughly the same amount of physical space across Europe, I could travel from London, England to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (1,278 miles), during which time I would pass through the sovereign nations of Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia, each of which has its own official language or dialect, in addition to many minority languages. If we wanted to treat the United States similarly, I could claim that since I know for a fact there are speakers of many different languages in California, Arizona, and New Mexico (in addition to their official languages; I can pluralize that because in New Mexico we actually have two -- English and Spanish), there might actually be more diversity to be had in my American journey than in my European one, especially given the genetic distance between, say, Navajo and English when compared to Slovenian and Croatian, or of course the German dialects of Austria and Germany. Really, such diversity. Hoera voor Europa! Hura za Evropo! Húrra fyrir Evrópu! (Dutch/Slovenian/Icelandic...I could add more, but you get the point.)
So, y'know...don't break your arms patting yourselves on the back, Europe, O land of diversity (in white people), where the monolingual idea ultimately comes from (see, e.g., Edwards 2004 Multilingualism in the English-speaking world
; it's tied to the nation-state, a quintessentially European concept).