Welche language habla twój voisin?

By Friederike Fischer

When I walk through my home­town, what do I hear? Traf­fic nois­es, the sounds of nature, ani­mals hum­ming, bark­ing, and chirp­ing. And of course, I hear us. Us humans chat­ter­ing, laugh­ing, and argu­ing. It is lan­guages I hear. Late­ly, there are also lan­guages I have nev­er heard before. Some­times, I turn around in search of their source and try to under­stand what is being said. I fail most of the time, but every now and then I rec­og­nize a word because of its resem­blance to a word I already know.

My neigh­bors in Ger­many most­ly speak Eng­lish, Pol­ish, and Russ­ian, but I some­times hear Span­ish, French, Dutch, Ara­bic, and Chi­nese as well. It seems that – slow­ly but sure­ly – Ger­many is turn­ing into a multi­na­tion­al coun­try. languageOf course, the Unit­ed States has been the pre­ferred place of immi­gra­tion for peo­ple world­wide. The jour­nal­ist Ben Blatt wrote an inter­est­ing arti­cle for Slate Mag­a­zine in 2014 named, “Taga­log in Cal­i­for­nia, Chero­kee in Arkansas: What lan­guage does your state speak?” His text and maps are based on the Cen­sus Bureau’s Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Sur­vey which looks at the lan­guages spo­ken in the Unit­ed States.  For Amer­i­cans, it might be inter­est­ing to look at this arti­cle; for stu­dents study­ing Eng­lish, it’s a must. Today, learn­ing a lan­guage means so much more than just prac­tic­ing gram­mar and pro­nun­ci­a­tion. In order to real­ly under­stand and be able to com­mu­ni­cate with native speak­ers, it is far more impor­tant to dis­cov­er cul­tur­al back­grounds and his­tor­i­cal events. The maps Ben Blatt cre­at­ed make great visu­al tools for the lan­guage class­room and might help teach­ers to get (and retain!) their stu­dents’ atten­tion. Which states speak most­ly Span­ish? Or Ger­man? And Why? Just fol­low the link and see for your­self – it’s worth a try!


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