The death of English in America

I previously wrote about my experiences speaking Spanish while visiting Tenerife, Spain, and mused about why more Americans don’t speak more than one language like our European counterparts. Feeling unsatisfied with the answers I found on Google, I decided to conduct my own scientific study to find the truth. Using my training in research and methodology (combined with a healthy admiration for MMA fighting), I pitted Team English and Team Multilingual against one another in a no-holds bar fight to the death—all while controlling for extraneous variables like SAT score and monthly coffee consumption. The results will surprise you.

Round 1: Attractiveness

In September 2012, Kaplan International reported that the sexiest accents are: Irish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, French and British. Not included are American and Asian accents (double whammy for me). 270 British dating agencies agreed that people who speak a foreign language are more attractive—which is fantastic since I wrote this piece from London. Unfortunately, I’m was also with my sister who is the worst wingwoman ever! Winner: Team Multilinguals. Loser: James.

Round 2: Americanness

Wikipedia claims that at least half of the 44 U.S. presidents have “displayed proficiency in speaking or writing a language other than English.” Thomas Jefferson knew Greek, Latin, French, Italian and Spanish. More recently, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are conversational in German and Spanish, respectively. But do you need to be multilingual to be a great American president? Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves; he only spoke English. Ronald Reagan, credited for reviving the political right, also tops the English-only list. Winner: It’s close, but Team Multilingual wins this round too. Richard Nixon, as the only president to have ever been impeached, definitely brought down Team English.

Round 3: Conflict resolution

Remember the ongoing tiff between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey on American Idol? You probably don’t since American Idol that was last summer and America has moved on to more fascinating things—like Miley Cyrus’ ridiculously long tongue. But if you did watch, you would have seen an ongoing feud between these two pop divas.

Nicki: Off with your head, off with your head.
Mariah: Do I have a 3-year-old sitting around me?
Nicki: I’m not sitting here for 20 minutes and having you run down your resume every day. No! Goodbye!
Mariah: I can’t see my kids because you decided to have a little baby fit and going all around the stage.

Had Mariah simply turned to Randy Jackson and said “Que malo! Nicki Minaj está muy loca,” none of this would have ever happen, and then what would America be left with? The Voice? Winner: Team English. You don’t need to speak another language to find a celebrity feud entertaining.

Round 4: Intelligence

There are a number of research studies that demonstrate the positive benefits of being bilingual—particularly among children. Children who grow up knowing multiple languages perform better academically, and display greater cognitive function and emotional health. Basically, they’re like super babies. Who knows what my life would have been like if I only knew a single language. I could have ended up in jail, or worse, the Tea Party. Winner: Team Multilinguals.

Round 5: Celebrity

Team Multilingual consists of stars like Kobe Bryant (Italian), Sandra Bullock (German), Jackie Chan (Cantonese, Mandarin, English), Natalie Portman (Hebrew) and Will Smith (Spanish). On the other side, Team English boasts Angelina Jolie, Christine Bale, Keanu Reeves, Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus.

Winner: Team English. Sure, you’ve got some mega stars on Team Multilingual, but Will Smith is definitely dragging everyone down with After Earth. On the other hand, Team English has been blowing up the blogosphere lately, mainly due to Justin Beiber getting carried up the Great Wall like a tiny dragon lord ascending to heaven.

Results: By a score of 3-2, Team Multilingual barely edges out Team English to claim the top spot in America. Team English gave it their best, but they’re going to have to regroup and do some soul-searching in the offseason. Meanwhile, Team Multilingual should enjoy their moment in the sun. America might be seeing a new team dynasty in the making.


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