www.whyville.net Sep 19, 2003 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

A Word-y Debate

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I just finished reading the Times article Share a Word.  The author of this article expressed outrage at the fact that Whyville encourages people to speak in other languages.  I strongly disagree with SailorL's opinion and would like to give my counter-opinion.  There are a few issues that I think the author may not have considered while writing her piece:

First of all, SailorL seemed to think that people speak in other languages in order to "confuse and possibly upset the people around you", or because they "don't have the heart to converse with their peers in a way that everyone can understand."  I would like to argue that most people don't speak in foreign languages to annoy their peers.  They simply are more comfortable and more fluent speaking their native language.  Plenty of people don't speak English at all.  So I think that to assume people are speaking in foreign tongues for the sake of annoying or excluding us all is a bit rash. 

The author stated that she disliked when people didn't speak English because she didn't know if they were talking about "how bad [her] outfit is".  If it provides any assurance, I would like to remind the author that if people wanted to talk about her, they probably would simply whisper to each other.  They would have no need to speak in another language for that. 

She was also concerned that if a person was in a chat room where everyone was speaking another language, they might feel left out and hurt.  I personally have never had this situation happen to me; I have never even seen anyone speaking in a foreign language unless I explicitly asked them to demonstrate.  So I don't think this is likely to be a problem anytime soon.  However, it is possible that this could happen.  May I suggest that the person who is feeling excluded either find a different chat room (Whyville is full of rooms where the people are speaking English) or even better, ask the people around them to teach him/her a little bit of their language.  You'll probably learn a lot and maybe even make some new friends!

Towards the end of the article, the author protested the fact that Whyville encourages people to speak foreign languages.  She felt it was a "LARGE contradiction" that a "safe haven" such as Whvyille would promote such a breach of "civil decency".  She also suggested that those who continually speak in another language should be banished from Whyville.  Perhaps this young lady has a different definition of safe haven than I do; I don't know.  In my opinion, a safe haven is a place where everyone can be themselves and express their feelings without discrimination or punishment.  I think discouraging or banishing foreign speakers would contradict this.  I also wonder how foreign languages offend civil decency.  Perhaps these languages are indecent? No, that opinion would be racist.  And the author clearly states, "I'm not a racist."

All in all, I found this article very surprising, especially because the author had pointed out that she lived in Canada, "a place where diversity is accepted and hardly ever questioned".  Maybe she had not thought this through all the way.  I think that before judging others, it is important to put ourselves in their position.  In fact, I did just that before writing this article.  And I decided that the author of "Share a Word" did not realize that her statements might come across as offending to some people.  She was just frustrated because of not being able to understand what people were saying sometimes.

There is a book called Bloomability that relates to this subject.  It is by Sharon Creech and it is fantastic.  All interested persons should check it out. 

Goodbye, Adios, Au Revoir, Shalom, Ciao, and Adieu,


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