Author Topic: Language and etiquette  (Read 3538 times)

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Katana_Geldar

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Language and etiquette
« on: December 17, 2012, 06:09:49 PM »
I work in a international student college, so there's a lot of different languages spoken in the library (which is meant to be an English-only zone, but it's not enforced) and it's got me thinking about foreign languages in general, particularly when they are spoken in the presence of people who do not share that language.

Now, I'm up for forcing people to speak a particular language, but I do think it is rude if people talk amongst themselves in a language that isn't shared by people. I've sat at dinner tables where this is happening and I have no idea how to tell them that I'm being left out.

What are your thoughts? It's a very tricky thing that can upset people very easily.

Moray

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2012, 06:20:05 PM »
I think if you're having a conversation "over" or "excluding" someone, it's rude. However, if you're just conversing in a separate group "around" others, I don't think it's a problem at all.

So different groups in the library is totally fine (from an etiquette standpoint), but having a private conversation during dinner with multiple people is rude.
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DottyG

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2012, 06:39:26 PM »
^ That

Why would you think it's rude for people to converse amongst themselves if you're not even a part of the conversation?


Katana_Geldar

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2012, 06:57:10 PM »
I have no problem with people who talk in small groups in their own language. It may be an issue in a workplace though, but that's not my situation.
Students do chat to each other in their own language at my desk, and I don't mind it inless it directly affects the conversation.

I was just using my work to establish context.

Surianne

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2012, 06:59:53 PM »
I agree, I'm pretty confused by this.  Why would a library be English-only?  Are you talking about the patrons or the staff?  I'm a librarian and I can't see any way that it would be reasonable for me to enforce the language our patrons use among themselves. 

DottyG

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2012, 07:00:57 PM »
I think I might be confused by your question then.

You said

Quote
I do think it is rude if people talk amongst themselves in a language that isn't shared by people

But then said

Quote
I have no problem with people who talk in small groups in their own language.


I'm likening this to a trip to Italy once.  It wasn't rude of my family to talk to each other in English - even at dinner (we were dining at our own table) even though the language there is Italian.  We spoke in our native tongue to each other amongst ourselves.

I'm not sure what you're asking, because the above 2 sentences seem to contradict each other. ???

DottyG

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2012, 07:01:26 PM »
Surianne was typing at the same time I was, but I agree with her question as well.


Cosmasia

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2012, 07:06:37 PM »
It's not rude at all to talk in a language with your group that people around you don't understand.
People around you don't have a right to demand to understand your conversation.
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VorFemme

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2012, 07:10:27 PM »
If you are in a group and the ONLY one who doesn't speak *otherese* at all - then it depends on if everyone else speaks *commonese* or not.

If there is a common language, it should be spoken by preference (some slack given if there isn't a word in *commonese* and someone uses the *otherese* term and asks someone who speaks both languages well for a good translation). 

If there is no common language - then at least one person should be trying to keep up a running translation.....there were OLDER generations in my family that spoke German and learned English only when they went to school - Great-Grandmother was the last one who spoke German almost exclusively, and she passed away in the 1960s.  Everyone since then might converse in German with relatives of the same generation (or the previous one, Great-Grandma might have had surviving younger siblings who stayed in touch at family reunions, I just don't remember speaking to them that much, as I was playing with various cousins of about my own age).

But if any group was speaking in German and one of the younger "English only" generation came up - one or more would ask them what they needed in English to determine if they were planning to join the conversation or just letting the older generation know that the meal was served or something else pertinent.

In school and a couple of jobs later in life, there were numbers of people who spoke Spanish at home and they spoke Spanish in some groups at lunch - but they would switch back and forth into English if an English only speaker joined them.  Sometimes they would switch back & forth in the same sentence....which wasn't as helpful as they might have thought - as my family did not speak Spanish at all.
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WillyNilly

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 07:12:34 PM »
At my job the office manager and another employee speak Spanish fluently.  There used to be 2 or 3 other Spanish speakers.  They are/were all born & raised in the US and went to normal English-speaking schools.  Its very off putting that they chat in Spanish. I know enough Spanish (and body language) to say with confidence sometimes its personal chatter, sometimes its work stuff. They often save their complaints for Spanish, I guess forgetting that the "bad" words are some of the most commonly known among non-Spanish speakers, so really its not so much of a secret as to what they are saying.

Katana_Geldar

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2012, 07:14:24 PM »
I have no idea why the library is English-only. It might be so all students have a shared language, but it's not enforced so its not an issue.

And I think I explained myself poorly in the opening post. I have problem with the students talking with each other in their own language, it's more when in the company of others or during a conversation with me that I have an issue with.

Hope that clears things up.

DottyG

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2012, 07:16:35 PM »
If they're with others who don't speak their language, they should converse in a way that everyone is included.

But your language example is a red herring.  The above would be true regardless of what the difference is.  When you're in a group, you don't deliberately leave someone else out and make them feel like they don't belong.


Tilt Fairy

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 07:29:01 PM »
If they're with others who don't speak their language, they should converse in a way that everyone is included.

But your language example is a red herring.  The above would be true regardless of what the difference is.  When you're in a group, you don't deliberately leave someone else out and make them feel like they don't belong.


Yep this. As Dotty says, the same would apply if there is a language barrier or not. It's never kind to make people in a group feel excluded or uncomfortable. In a nutshell, people talking amongst themselves or to each other is fine, but when you're a part of the conversation or included in a group or actively involved in the people and the situation, it's unkind to speak primarily in a language you don't understand and/or don't have it explained or translated to you.

I agree with the others though. That's really odd that there's an English Only Zone in a public library. That doesn't sit right with me.

Katana_Geldar

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2012, 07:33:56 PM »
It's not a public library, it's a private business/accounting college.

sweetonsno

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Re: Language and etiquette
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2012, 07:34:30 PM »
I have two different answers for two different situations.

At work: You just say, "Please speak English." It's fine. They know that it's the common language, so you don't need to explain anything. Think of it like asking someone to speak up a bit if there is a lot of background noise or they are whispering. You aren't criticizing them, you're just asking them to speak in a way that will be understood by all. 

In a social situation, assume that they aren't aware of the fact that you aren't following along. Say, "I'm sorry, but I don't speak 'otherese'." If they invited you to join them and you aren't following along, of course they want to know! (However, if you asked to join a different group that was already established, I don't think you can politely ask to be included.)