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Talkin’ The Talk in Zurich

December 7, 2011

One of the most compelling aspects of this country is the confluence of language. As I sit in the lounge awaiting my flight, a gentleman next to me is operating various devices, one of which is a cell phone. He’s made several calls and in so doing, has been able to switch between French, German, Italian and English seamlessly. And a couple more I couldn’t identify. It’s no secret that Americans struggle with this. As the old saw has it: Most people in the world speak two or three languages, but Americans just one, badly. But is that capability, or lack of, charming? Is the Brooklyn accent I hear from across the room appealing? The Texas drawl from the guy complaining about the coffee? Not really, and especially not in this setting. I chastised a good friend earlier today for his “thimble-sized world view,” but in retrospect, I was wrong to do so. One of the lessons of travel is that ultimately, people are just people. As in all other facets of life, balance rules the day. And if our countrymen and women occasionally sound like uneducated boobs, so be it. We’re good – so to speak – because we have other reasons to be proud of who we are.

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