People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language...

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People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language...

Postby afk2011 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:18 am UTC

Hey guys.

Just wondering if anyone else out there has had the experience of meeting someone who LOVES to talk about their "roots", how they are completely Italian or something, and how culturally strong they are, but then when you try to speak with them in that language that don't know anything?

It's a big pet-peeve of mine and a total cop out. If you are so proud to be 100% of whatever, then go and learn that language!

UGH.

I recently made an xkcd-style comic about it that you can find here ( godreallyhates.blogspot.com ) if you have a sec. I feel like it happens more with Italian than anything else, but yeah. Word.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:41 am UTC

This is a pretty American phenomenon, no?
People have/create group identities and, in most of the world, they can firmly place themselves into an essentially ancient, very well defined, and established group. These groups tend to be ethnic, national, religious, what have you. America is relatively new and people of non-indigenous groups trace their ethnic group to some other region. In order to ground their genetic identities somewhere they have to ground them in foreign soil.

The language question is interesting because it brings up how people view their association to those ethnic identities. It's often cultural (see: "more Irish than someone from Dublin" phenomenon), always genetic, but rarely linguistic. So, this isn't frustrating to me, because, like whoever it is that's bugging you, I don't see the need to speak the "mother tongue" to feel an association with my ancestors. In my case it's the Plantagenets. I wouldn't feel any closer to them by speaking Middle English or Old French. That would actually create a weird cognitive dissonance between my group affiliation with my ancestors and my identity as a 21st C. American.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby Twelfthroot » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:07 pm UTC

This is an interesting sort of opinion that, while I'm not accusing you of perpetrating, puts an interesting sort of pressure on people of a certain heritage. I understand you're complaining about people who boast of their ethnicity. But even still, for people who don't boast but still want to identify with the ethnicity of their parents or grandparents, it echos a very high standard that if they don't speak the language, they don't count. If an American got into a brain-damaging accident tomorrow and woke up only speaking their second languages, with English gone (which I understand happens), would you say they were no longer American? That it would be undeserved for them to speak proudly of their American heritage?

Obviously that's a bit of a contrived circumstance, but the issue applies very broadly. As far as experiences I've heard personally, there are many Mexicans living in America who were raised monolingual in English. Often their parents were Spanish-speaking and neglected passing on their native language in hopes to give their children wider opportunities. Couple this with the varied prejudices and social factors in border states in terms of immigrant identity, and the vile Americanism "This is America, speak English." You can see how these people would be confused and struggling to find their cultural identity, wanting to find solidarity in their heritage and still be a part of society. Are you going to criticize them for celebrating their heritage because they don't speak Spanish? Some of them were even made to feel shame for their parents' Spanish or for sounding Mexican -- "just go learn Spanish" isn't exactly a couple classes and textbooks and bam, heritage.

What about somebody living in Spain who is only really comfortable speaking Catalan? If I'm Québécois - or even just Canadian - am I only half-authentic if I only speak English or only speak French? Am I Québécois when I speak French and Canadian when I speak English?

Language and heritage are very closely interrelated, and members of ethnic groups often wield language more or less strongly to construct their ethnic identities. This does not make them the same thing. It is not hard for me to imagine people who understand and live by the so-called 'true' 'American' 'freedoms' and beliefs without speaking a word of English, and goodness knows I know a lot of native English Americans who make me ashamed of my American heritage.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby gurfunklebunker » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:00 pm UTC

I guess I would be one of those people. I do consider myself Croatian (though i also have Czech and Italian roots) but i cannot speak the language (yet, anyways, just a few words).Yes, I was born in Canada, but I do not entirely feel "Canadian". Plus, it doesn't help that my father never wanted to teach me Croatian when I was younger, and my mother didn't teach me Italian when I was younger either. (My uncle has told me that he protested to my parents that learning both of the languages would be extremely beneficial, but my mother claimed that since we were in Canada, English was "good enough".)

I am trying right now to learn the language (I have a book on beginner's Croatian and I know a few words and such). Plus the university I will be going to offers courses in Croatian as well. I have always seemed to identify myself as a Croat (and probably the largest example of this being the Croatian and Canadian flags hanging on my wall with the Croatian national anthem hanging in between them) and really get peeved when someone tries to tell me otherwise. I am trying to put forth an honest effort to learn the language that my father did not teach me, and I do hope that I will be able to speak it fluently. (Hell, I can sing both national anthems of Canada and Croatia, and I think that is a start at the very least.)

Another example is my friend who is Russian, but he does not speak the language, but is also trying to make the effort in learning the language. But I have never considered him "Canadian", I have only referred to him as "Russian" despite being born in Canada. So, after all of this, i really do not know what else to say. I still consider myself Croatian at the end of the day, and I refuse people that tell me otherwise.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby sje46 » Sun Jun 06, 2010 5:44 am UTC

It's kinda a pet peeve of me too. Not that they don't speak the language...languages are basically impossible to learn in America if you don't have an actual reason to learn it/constant exposure/great talent/motivation. This is why 95% of American students in areas without a lot of minorities who sit through Spanish classes don't become even close to conversant later in life. Not because Americans are lazy. But because it's too late, and there are no opportunities to even practice it. It isn't worth it to carry on. You want these people to learn a language, but doing so will entail going to college or living in a foreign country for a few years, assuming they're a regular person.

What I do agree with you on is how people identify with their roots. And people have called me a jerk for saying this, but I do feel like it's harmful to American society because it encourages racialistic thinking. It's one thing, you know, to call yourself French if your parents immigrated to New Orleans from France and spoke french at home and celebrated French holidays and such. It's a different thing to grow up in suburban Massachussetts with the same kind of homelife as everyone else, celebrating the same holidays as everyone else, eating the same foods as everyone else, speaking the same language and accent as everyone else, and being proud for being Italian because that's where your grandfather hails from. You're not Italian, culturally. You're American. If you have any doubts about that, go to Italy, and ask them if you're Italian. I'd imagine it'd be a bit insulting to them. Not because you're American, but because you're calling you one of them without at least ctually adopting their culture.

Maybe it isn't harmful to do this, but I feel like it ultimately is. People still explain things racialistically. "He's a real Italian, a great cook", "You can tell she's got French blood, she's really romantic". It's alright to appropriate parts of a culture into your identity. You don't have to eat only hotdogs and hamburgers and only watch baseball and only listen to 50s rock and roll. But to actually calling yourself a part of a culture that you've never even really experienced is insulting, at the very least.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:41 pm UTC

sje46 wrote:you're calling you one of them without at least actually adopting their culture.
Wait, did Italy suddenly start having one culture when I wasn't looking?
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sun Jun 06, 2010 10:53 pm UTC

All countries, besides America, Canada, Iraq, Israel (if you include Palestine), and the UK (and formerly Serbia, before Kosovo split) have one culture. Spluh.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby balt11t » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:00 pm UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:All countries, besides America, Canada, Iraq, Israel (if you include Palestine), and the UK (and formerly Serbia, before Kosovo split) have one culture. Spluh.


I disagree with this one hundred per cent. In countries such as France, or Italy, the culture varies HUGELY depending on where you are. Just as in America, if you live in New York and move to Idaho or Louisiana, there's a relatively wide cultural gap there.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby ZLVT » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:20 pm UTC

turkey iraq and syria all have huge kurdish populations. Australia has aboriginal and TSI cultures, Most of europe has huge gypsy populations, afghansitan and pakistan both have huge pashtun populations. Don't even get me started on russia and china. Japan has the ainu, the island of jeju in S Korea has a culture which unlike the rest of korean lacks many of the honourifics and terms of respect that are so intrinsic to Korean and in fact most east asian cultures. Native populations all throughout S America and ofc africa is rife with diversity. SA alone has two major white ethnic groups with different cultures plus all the native groups, tswana sotho zulu xhosa to name a few. Rwanda was one big culture clash if you think about it.


Unless you were being facetious in which case I'll be quiet
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby Bobber » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:28 pm UTC

balt11t wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:All countries, besides America, Canada, Iraq, Israel (if you include Palestine), and the UK (and formerly Serbia, before Kosovo split) have one culture. Spluh.


I disagree with this one hundred per cent. In countries such as France, or Italy, the culture varies HUGELY depending on where you are. Just as in America, if you live in New York and move to Idaho or Louisiana, there's a relatively wide cultural gap there.
dude what

It's not even like you're feeding a troll, you're just completely disregarding the blatant sarcasm in his post.

OR I am right now feeding a troll. Which is it? We may never know!
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:36 pm UTC

ZLVT wrote:Unless you were being facetious in which case I'll be quiet


Yes, I was being facetious. I was agreeing with Gmaviluk's point that Americans tend to view foreign cultures monolithically.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:57 pm UTC

balt11t wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:All countries, besides America, Canada, Iraq, Israel (if you include Palestine), and the UK (and formerly Serbia, before Kosovo split) have one culture. Spluh.
I disagree with this one hundred per cent.
Yeah, so does Iulus Cofield. It's what's called sarcasm.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby RabbitWho » Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:27 pm UTC

Some people have no idea how to learn a language, though they would be really good at it if they did.
Some people just can't learn a language no matter what they do.
Some people are busy looking for a cure for cancer or some other important thing.
Most people are just lazy.
But you never know what group your'e talking to so you have to be tolerant of everyone.

I would be so amazingly happy if all the Irish Americans learnt Irish... And I promise you they would be so admired and respected for it. Our language is dying, and there are something like 40 million Irish Americans. If they learned it it would live. Imagine the market? The money that would be put into Irish, the classes, the courses, the books that would be printed, the websites, the support for people learning, the films that would be made, the websites that would be translated... the dances.. the parties.. the clubs.. the people coming together to speak Irish.
If there were that many adults learning it, and because they loved it! Oh that would be a wonderful thing!

None of this mystisism crap. Like this:
Image

This type of design was brought to Ireland FROM TURKEY. It's about as celtic as my phone. (If you believe the word Celtic actually refers to something, and I do).
No magic, no rabbits, no hats.. a real living language!

Here's a Celtic design:
Image
http://www.artfund.org/assets/image/art ... 008156.jpg
No interlacing. Much more natural and simple. Actually really modern and fashionable looking now in 2010.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:03 am UTC

RabbitWho wrote:If you believe the word Celtic actually refers to something
Yes, it refers to the Gauls. :-)
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby sje46 » Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:01 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
sje46 wrote:you're calling you one of them without at least actually adopting their culture.
Wait, did Italy suddenly start having one culture when I wasn't looking?

There's no distinct lines about where one culture ends and another one begins. But I don't really see how that's relevant. At all. It's still insulting to say you're part of a culture to someone in that culture when you only have superficial knowledge of that culture.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:06 am UTC

It always bugged me when my mother insisted I remain a good Jew, have a bar mitzvah and marry a Jewish woman, when she neither cares about, knows about, or has had said education.

But sure, it's hilarious when people advertise their superficial knowledge of something they swear by.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby djlowballer » Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:00 am UTC

I dislike the whole American trend of trying to cling to some cultural heritage one has never been a part of. The language bit is just the icing on the cake. If you don't speak the language, were never raised in the culture, and have never been to the home country then you are not really from a culture. I never understood the shame in identifying oneself as American. For a 200 year old country we have some pretty sweet history.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby animeHrmIne » Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:42 pm UTC

I really don't think it's a shame thing. From what I've seen, it's more like: family comes over to America from, say, Lithuania, they don't speak English and are identified as Lithuanian; next generation is raised bilingual, and are raised culturally like their parents were, so are still considered Lithuanian; next generation has almost no ties to Lithuania culturally or linguistically, but they still consider themselves Lithuanian because their parents did.

I assume the same happens in other countries, Koreans in Japan having children their who consider themselves Korean, Scottish people moving to England and their kids are still Scottish, etc.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:30 pm UTC

Even in more ethnically homogeneous populations, I suspect people have personal identities that set them apart from most of those around them and put them into a smaller in-group. If they all speak the same language and their ancestors all came from that same country for several generations, it'll be something else like a tiny difference in how they practice their religion or how light or dark their skin is.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby RabbitWho » Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:42 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
RabbitWho wrote:If you believe the word Celtic actually refers to something
Yes, it refers to the Gauls. :-)


It refers to a lot more than that, that's the problem. All the word actually means is "Foreign"

But the people who we call Celts and came to Ireland were from La Tene and Halstatt (mostly) They didn't all share one culture or one language, which is why some people claim there were no such thing as Celts. They were foreign to the Greeks, that's the only thing they had in common.

djlowballer wrote:I dislike the whole American trend of trying to cling to some cultural heritage one has never been a part of. The language bit is just the icing on the cake. If you don't speak the language, were never raised in the culture, and have never been to the home country then you are not really from a culture. I never understood the shame in identifying oneself as American. For a 200 year old country we have some pretty sweet history.


Stephen Fry said something wonderful about Americans which I think is absolutely true.. The best Europeans left, the fearless, the brave, the ones who were unhappy with their miserable little lives at home in the rain and said.. you know what.. maybe we'll get eaten by wolves but feck it, anything's better than this.

I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of. (Well, taking the land from the Native Americans etc. but that's not your fault, and most of your grandparents weren't born in America anyway, and none of us are on a piece of land right now that someones ancestors didn't steal from someone)
I don't understand the Irish American fascination with Ireland, but if they're going to have it it would make me so happy if it was the real Ireland and not the crappy mystical shamrock leprechaun stuff.
I mean you can come over to Dingle and buy a little furry sheep for 10 euro and take a picture of yourself drinking Guiness and say you love Ireland.
Or you can stay in America, study Irish, and read Irish literature and poems or listen to Irish music.. and say you love Ireland.

I mean people should do whatever makes them feel happy and fulfilled. I'm just pointing out that there's a difference, and while our economy is dying and I'm pleased people are buying stuffed sheep.. Our culture and connection with our history is dying and that's a bigger loss.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:11 pm UTC

RabbitWho wrote:All the word actually means is "Foreign"
[citation needed]

I thought it had always been used to refer to people from Western Europe, never to foreigners in general.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:25 pm UTC

sje46 wrote:And people have called me a jerk for saying this, but I do feel like it's harmful to American society because it encourages racialistic thinking. It's one thing, you know, to call yourself French if your parents immigrated to New Orleans from France and spoke french at home and celebrated French holidays and such. It's a different thing to grow up in suburban Massachussetts with the same kind of homelife as everyone else, celebrating the same holidays as everyone else, eating the same foods as everyone else, speaking the same language and accent as everyone else, and being proud for being Italian because that's where your grandfather hails from. You're not Italian, culturally. You're American. If you have any doubts about that, go to Italy, and ask them if you're Italian. I'd imagine it'd be a bit insulting to them. Not because you're American, but because you're calling you one of them without at least ctually adopting their culture.

It is not about race, though, so much as nationalism. At the start of the nineteenth century it was fairly nonsensical to talk about being Italian, but as the century progressed Italy developed a movement towards nationalism and unification. Italy is a social unity: an imagined community. But nationalities are also fluid. The Welshmen (and presumably the Welshwoman) can identify as Welsh, where it means they want independence from London and the right to skip out on paying for a meal. But the same person may also identify as British in different circumstances, feeling a close bond with their Scottish, English, (Cornish), and Irish brethren. Such identities are fluid and often contradictory, informed by context and environment rather than any definite qualities of the soul. But this is just the point. Italian Americans do, of course, have a strong identity as Americans, and would identify as American in Italy. But that doesn't preclude them from claiming to be Italian within America, purely because such identities are inherently artificial (of course they're artificial, you might say: I mean non-organic, constructed, or fickle).

It is not a truism that you are American. Were you to move to Greece today, and spend the next three decades there, you would no longer have a clear American identity. If you then returned to America, you would have difficulty reconciling your historic American nationality and the America that would then exist. If you did not have one already, you would suddenly find yourself with a complex and contradictory national identity.

It is not less different than children twice or three times removed from their immigrant ancestors. Because nationality itself is imagined, it is of no consequence to invent your own nationality. Should we be irritated by such people? Well, perhaps. But their parents, and the rest of their family, are probably sharing in the delusion. So while the delusion is invented the effects of it are not.

That is, ideas have significant power over real behaviour. Place a book on your head, and walk around keeping it balanced there. Now, take it off, and pretend there is a book on your head, and walk around trying to keep the pretend book balanced there. Whether by something real or imagined, your posture has been changed. Our Americans are posturing themselves as Italians such that it does not really matter they aren't Italian. Doesn't even matter Italians do not consider themselves Italians. They are Italians to the exact same extent you are American. And because their relatives keep up the pretense, they are raised such that they cannot truly be "only" American. There is always something in them that would refuse to renounce a cultural identity which does not exist.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby RabbitWho » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:28 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
RabbitWho wrote:All the word actually means is "Foreign"
[citation needed]

I thought it had always been used to refer to people from Western Europe, never to foreigners in general.


I can only cite a conversation with my cousin in our back garden she cited her college lecturer. UCC Anthropology I think..

The cloest agreement I can find online is here:

The most popular theory is that it derived from the Greek word Keltoi, which means "people who hide." From this Greek term it is believed that the classical Latin term Celtus (keltus) was derived. These terms referred to particular tribes of people speaking unique languages such as Cambric, Cornish, Manx, and more, who lived throughout Europe at the time.

Read more: http://www.articlesbase.com/culture-art ... z0r7qs7DP0
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution]

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:50 pm UTC

But it's my understanding that Herodotus used Keltoi to refer specifically to the Gauls.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby goofy » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:14 pm UTC

RabbitWho wrote:The cloest agreement I can find online is here:

The most popular theory is that it derived from the Greek word Keltoi, which means "people who hide." From this Greek term it is believed that the classical Latin term Celtus (keltus) was derived. These terms referred to particular tribes of people speaking unique languages such as Cambric, Cornish, Manx, and more, who lived throughout Europe at the time.

Read more: http://www.articlesbase.com/culture-art ... z0r7qs7DP0
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution]


Κελτοί is not Greek for "people who hide". Κελτοί is the ancient Greek word for the people of Western Europe, who were called Celtæ by the Romans.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby bitsplit » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:28 pm UTC

I am a person living in Puerto Rico, born and raised here. We have a very homogeneous population with a decent level of genetic diversity.

I find that culture is something to take pride in. However, I find that people all too often try to assume culture is a clear cut and well defined property for each person or group, and that's where it all collapses. Cultures are fuzzy. They are dynamic, changing with time and geography, and encompass many different things.

I find that language is an essential part of culture. However, saying that a person is disallowed from identifying with a cultural or ethnic group because they don't speak the language that is commonly associated with that group is invalid. Also, the language or languages "officially" accepted by the majority of the members of a culture or ethnic group as the "signature" languages of that culture or ethnic group are not necessarily its true languages. There is also more to culture and ethnicity than language.

That said, I believe that there are people who identify with a culture or ethnic group who do not really belong to that group. In part, it's because groups evolve, and because some groups emerge from others. Someone can claim to belong to a group, and to some extent rightly believe themselves to be so. However, a person who has no true interest in, knowledge of, or tie to an ethnic group or culture to at least some degree has a doubtful claim of belonging to it. In that case, they simply use the same word to refer to something else.

I also believe that ethnicity and culture is not necessarily inherited. I have met people who have adopted a culture or ethnic group so completely that they have become honorary members of that culture. That is, at least, my perception.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby RabbitWho » Thu Jun 17, 2010 6:19 pm UTC

goofy wrote:
RabbitWho wrote:The cloest agreement I can find online is here:

The most popular theory is that it derived from the Greek word Keltoi, which means "people who hide." From this Greek term it is believed that the classical Latin term Celtus (keltus) was derived. These terms referred to particular tribes of people speaking unique languages such as Cambric, Cornish, Manx, and more, who lived throughout Europe at the time.

Read more: http://www.articlesbase.com/culture-art ... z0r7qs7DP0
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution]


Κελτοί is not Greek for "people who hide". Κελτοί is the ancient Greek word for the people of Western Europe, who were called Celtæ by the Romans.


Who am I supposed to believe?

In any case this is just a little detail, the point was that the celts didn't have a universally shared culture or language or art because the word was not used to refer to a specific group of people.
Like if I say Americans I sometimes mean Canadians, people from the USA, Brazil, Mexico, etc. etc.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 18, 2010 12:31 am UTC

RabbitWho wrote:Who am I supposed to believe?
I don't know, but probably *not* some unsourced article that makes a claim that isn't backed up by the OED, etymonline.com, or the Wikipedia article about names for the Celts.
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby djlowballer » Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:47 am UTC

RabbitWho wrote:Stephen Fry said something wonderful about Americans which I think is absolutely true.. The best Europeans left, the fearless, the brave, the ones who were unhappy with their miserable little lives at home in the rain and said.. you know what.. maybe we'll get eaten by wolves but feck it, anything's better than this.

I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of. (Well, taking the land from the Native Americans etc. but that's not your fault, and most of your grandparents weren't born in America anyway, and none of us are on a piece of land right now that someones ancestors didn't steal from someone)
I don't understand the Irish American fascination with Ireland, but if they're going to have it it would make me so happy if it was the real Ireland and not the crappy mystical shamrock leprechaun stuff.
I mean you can come over to Dingle and buy a little furry sheep for 10 euro and take a picture of yourself drinking Guiness and say you love Ireland.
Or you can stay in America, study Irish, and read Irish literature and poems or listen to Irish music.. and say you love Ireland.

I mean people should do whatever makes them feel happy and fulfilled. I'm just pointing out that there's a difference, and while our economy is dying and I'm pleased people are buying stuffed sheep.. Our culture and connection with our history is dying and that's a bigger loss.


I don't think it is as good as you think. I was invited to an Irish party held by one of my friends who considers themselves "in touch with their Irish roots". I came and everybody was drinking Guinness, wearing kilts, Haggis was being served, and flogging molly was blaring in the background. I have been to Ireland and this seemed nothing like the country I saw.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby RabbitWho » Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:09 am UTC

djlowballer wrote:
RabbitWho wrote:Stephen Fry said something wonderful about Americans which I think is absolutely true.. The best Europeans left, the fearless, the brave, the ones who were unhappy with their miserable little lives at home in the rain and said.. you know what.. maybe we'll get eaten by wolves but feck it, anything's better than this.

I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of. (Well, taking the land from the Native Americans etc. but that's not your fault, and most of your grandparents weren't born in America anyway, and none of us are on a piece of land right now that someones ancestors didn't steal from someone)
I don't understand the Irish American fascination with Ireland, but if they're going to have it it would make me so happy if it was the real Ireland and not the crappy mystical shamrock leprechaun stuff.
I mean you can come over to Dingle and buy a little furry sheep for 10 euro and take a picture of yourself drinking Guiness and say you love Ireland.
Or you can stay in America, study Irish, and read Irish literature and poems or listen to Irish music.. and say you love Ireland.

I mean people should do whatever makes them feel happy and fulfilled. I'm just pointing out that there's a difference, and while our economy is dying and I'm pleased people are buying stuffed sheep.. Our culture and connection with our history is dying and that's a bigger loss.


I don't think it is as good as you think. I was invited to an Irish party held by one of my friends who considers themselves "in touch with their Irish roots". I came and everybody was drinking Guinness, wearing kilts, Haggis was being served, and flogging molly was blaring in the background. I have been to Ireland and this seemed nothing like the country I saw.



ha ha. deary me! They were just having a themed party. Leave 'em off.
But there really are people fascinated by Irish culture and ridiculous films like the Quiet Man, people with tattoos of those Turkish designs I showed you etc. I just wish they'd invest their energy into real Ireland instead. I feel the same way about a lot of Irish people, especially the people so willing to do damage for their idea of Ireland but not actually willing to stop and do good for it by learning and teaching and dedicating that energy to the culture which is dying all the time while people are busy complaining about boarders and politicians.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:21 pm UTC

RabbitWho wrote:learning and teaching and dedicating that energy to the culture which is dying all the time
I definitely sympathize with the sadness of having a culture disappear, but at the same time, for whom are they preserving this culture, if not themselves? And if they themselves don't want to put energy into preserving something, then why should it be preserved?
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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby RabbitWho » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:29 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
RabbitWho wrote:learning and teaching and dedicating that energy to the culture which is dying all the time
I definitely sympathize with the sadness of having a culture disappear, but at the same time, for whom are they preserving this culture, if not themselves? And if they themselves don't want to put energy into preserving something, then why should it be preserved?


Maybe you're right but there are people working so hard to preserve nonsense like pagan rituals (nobody hit me) and misunderstandings and hate and reasons why you're better than other people.. I think all the pride and satisfaction they get from doing bad things and spreading hate could be gotten from doing good things that would help the whole country instead.
I guess what I'm saying is why is nationalism mostly bad when it should be all good! It should be about learning and sharing and history and culture and music and art and poetry. It's about "kiss me I'm Irish" and bombs and an obsession with the mistakes other people made in the past and guns and crap feeling morally superior.

Meanwhile when it comes to Irish Americans they often spend a lot of time trying to research their roots and their heritage but they get misinformed and fed a lot of mysticism and haggis, and that's not fair.

There are plenty of people putting the effort into preserving it. There are 70,000 fluent or native speakers of Irish, there are even more kids learning to play Irish instruments, there's an Irish language TV channel and Radio station and there's a few websites and programs to help people learn or to give people a platform to practice speaking Irish, not to mention it's a compulsory school subject up unto the point when you're 18 and it's an option at college.
It's possible to live your whole life in Ireland without speaking any English, all the banks are supposed to have Irish speakers to speak to you (but they don't always) and they have to have all their forms translated into Irish. The police have to be willing to provide you with an Irish speaking police officer if they want you to cooperate etc. etc.
Of course you'd be terribly lonely because if you wanted to talk to anyone you'd have to get yourself arrested.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby Sean of the Dead » Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:53 am UTC

70,000? more like 300,000. With numbers that small, that makes a big difference. And with 300,000+ people that speak it fluently, there are about 300,000 more speakers than 0 to talk to; you just have to go to the right places (like the Gaeltacht.) It's funny how people bash Irish and the like because they have so few speakers. I have seen no competition in the world where the objective is to have your language have the highest number of speakers. Quite the contrary, language is a vehicle for culture and communication, not a competition.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby RabbitWho » Sat Jun 19, 2010 12:05 pm UTC

Sean of the Dead wrote:70,000? more like 300,000. With numbers that small, that makes a big difference. And with 300,000+ people that speak it fluently, there are about 300,000 more speakers than 0 to talk to; you just have to go to the right places (like the Gaeltacht.) It's funny how people bash Irish and the like because they have so few speakers. I have seen no competition in the world where the objective is to have your language have the highest number of speakers. Quite the contrary, language is a vehicle for culture and communication, not a competition.


I think that more people claim to be fluent than are fluent. You get estimates from 20,000 up depending on where you look and how strictly they define "fluent"
And I have a job and a life, I can't just drop everything and move to a Gaeltacht. Maybe if I was an artist or a stand up comedian, but I'm not. That's true for most people.
If people were actually interested I wouldn't have to move to a gaeltacht.

I don't think that anyone thinks it's a competition and I don't know where you'd get that idea, but if you think that having few speakers doesn't endanger a language then you've a very interesting idea!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_la ... e_speakers

Look at the languages on the bottom of the list and tell me they'll be around in 100 years?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_death - read the consequences on grammar section and tell me you don't see examples of those things in Irish every single day.
Not to mention vocabulary, but that's less important because it's mostly proper nouns and it's not really going to make a difference to your mind or culture whether you say "gluaisteán" or "carr" . You still picture a car... and either way it's a new word to Irish.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... tinct.html
I read somewhere that there are languages going extinct almost every day because the last person who speaks them dies.

That's why people are obsessed with numbers, it's not a competition, it's one reflection on how successful we are in preserving it. How successful at teaching, how the people of the country feel about it, how important it is to us.
Not to mention as I said the fewer people that speak a language the harder it is to learn it. The fewer resources there are, the fewer people available to talk to.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby Sean of the Dead » Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:23 pm UTC

Well, if you really wanted to learn Irish and be among speakers, you would have to go find them, not wait for them to come to you. That's a great lesson in life, go look for what you want, not waiting for it to show up to your door on a silver platter, it won't happen.

First off, 100 speakers is far less than 300,000, even 70,000. Scottish Gaelic has 70,000 speakers, and while it isn't doing as well as Irish (FYI, you can't compare a language like Irish and English, because of the vastly different situations they are in), laadies and lassies are still learning it, and it is still vibrant within its culture in the Gàidhealtachd. Neither Irish- or Scottish Gaelic are in much danger of dying completely, and definitely won't in 100 years.

As for your list, the only language I can speak for is Pirahã. While it has very few speakers, almost all of its speakers are monolingual (a few speak very broken, rudimentary Portuguese), it is absolutely 100% alive within the tribes of speakers, and the only way it would die is if all its speakers were killed, which I highly doubt would happen. Other languages in that list which will most likely not die are: Norfuk (possibly Pitkern too,) Livonian, Manchu, and Skolt Sámi, and possibly others I don't know much about (the situation or language). It seems that you don't know anything about those languages, so please research what you are talking about so you can back yourself up, and not make yourself out to be a fool.

So, like Irish and Pirahã, a low number of speakers doesn't always mean that it is endangered. What you should be measuring is the daily use of it by its speakers, if the children in the areas where it is spoken are learning it, and so on. Languages like Cornish (which I am learning) and Manx Gaelic, which have only a couple thousand speakers each, are actually gaining more speakers, not the number of speakers declining.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby bitsplit » Mon Jun 21, 2010 12:26 pm UTC

RabbitWho wrote:Maybe you're right but there are people working so hard to preserve nonsense like pagan rituals (nobody hit me) and misunderstandings and hate and reasons why you're better than other people.. I think all the pride and satisfaction they get from doing bad things and spreading hate could be gotten from doing good things that would help the whole country instead.

There's a difference between being a proud member of a culture and being a zealot. Believing your culture is better that another is like believing oranges are better than apples. I believe Bigotry and zealotry are two of the biggest taints in human nature. Unfortunately, I don't think they will ever go away.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby RabbitWho » Fri Jun 25, 2010 9:52 pm UTC

bitsplit wrote:
RabbitWho wrote:Maybe you're right but there are people working so hard to preserve nonsense like pagan rituals (nobody hit me) and misunderstandings and hate and reasons why you're better than other people.. I think all the pride and satisfaction they get from doing bad things and spreading hate could be gotten from doing good things that would help the whole country instead.

There's a difference between being a proud member of a culture and being a zealot. Believing your culture is better that another is like believing oranges are better than apples. I believe Bigotry and zealotry are two of the biggest taints in human nature. Unfortunately, I don't think they will ever go away.


Right, except that I believe there is a good chance they will go away. http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_ ... lence.html Statistics say we're getting slowly better, hope we can speed up.

so please research what you are talking about so you can back yourself up, and not make yourself out to be a fool.


I never did anything to insult you and I am not going to continue this conversation now.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby bitsplit » Sat Jun 26, 2010 1:56 am UTC

RabbitWho wrote:Right, except that I believe there is a good chance they will go away. http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_ ... lence.html Statistics say we're getting slowly better, hope we can speed up.

Just because something is steadily getting better doesn't mean that it will eventually be near perfect. It just means it will reach a point that is better than the current point. But who knows, maybe I'm wrong. I sure as hell wish I was...

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby SeverinK » Sat Jul 10, 2010 12:10 pm UTC

Sean of the Dead wrote:As for your list, the only language I can speak for is Pirahã. While it has very few speakers, almost all of its speakers are monolingual (a few speak very broken, rudimentary Portuguese), it is absolutely 100% alive within the tribes of speakers, and the only way it would die is if all its speakers were killed, which I highly doubt would happen. Other languages in that list which will most likely not die are: Norfuk (possibly Pitkern too,) Livonian, Manchu, and Skolt Sámi, and possibly others I don't know much about (the situation or language). It seems that you don't know anything about those languages, so please research what you are talking about so you can back yourself up, and not make yourself out to be a fool.

So, like Irish and Pirahã, a low number of speakers doesn't always mean that it is endangered. What you should be measuring is the daily use of it by its speakers, if the children in the areas where it is spoken are learning it, and so on. Languages like Cornish (which I am learning) and Manx Gaelic, which have only a couple thousand speakers each, are actually gaining more speakers, not the number of speakers declining.


A low number of speakers doesn't always mean that a language is endangered but that usually seems to be the case. There is of course no strict correlation -- a small, but stable language which has never had many speakers but has high prestige, institutional support etc. might be much less endangered than a language that has more speakers but whose number has still drastically diminished in the last centuries or decades (case in point: many Celtic languages). Languages need stability and a severe drop wouldn't come out of nowhere, it shows us something isn't right. But that doesn't change the general principle -- languages that have less speakers also tend to have less political power, the parents are more likely to stop passing on their mother tongue etc.

However, I don't see how you can say that a language with 100-300 speakers (most probably very old because otherwise there would be more) can be anything but endangered. That just isn't enough people to form a society that could fulfill a person's linguistic needs, unless you imagine a deserted island scenario where they wouldn't really have a choice. Therefore, it is very likely that people might choose to use and to pass on another language. I don't know why you're so confident that the languages you mentioned won't die. According to some accounts, the last native Livonian speaker died in 2009 and the Saami languages all seem to be having a hard time under the pressure from Finnish and Scandinavian languages, even if the governments have been trying to make amends lately. I won't comment on the other languages you mentioned as I'm not from the area but a quick Wikipedia search makes it hard for me to believe your predictions, even if I really would like to, for the sake of linguistic ecology.

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Re: People that claim ethnicity but don't speak the language

Postby GarrettIrish » Fri Jul 16, 2010 3:09 am UTC

So it seems to me this has drifted a long way from the original topic...but into an discussion on Irish, which I'm entirely happy to be in.

I guess I'd hope to consider myself one of those Americans who does my heritage some credit. I am from an Irish family, a very old one(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riste%C3%A ... Ti%C3%BAit) and I'm certainly proud of it. I avoid the regular traps of Irish-Americanism simply because I'm a history major and have more experience looking for facts, not mystical art( though I resent the pagan jab, I am a member of Druid organizations, though I lean very heavily towards Celtic Reconstructionism not towards "mystical" types or Wicca).

But as an American with very rudimentary Irish it really is very difficult. If I don't have hundreds of dollars to shell out, I'm very limited in my study materials, and in my speaking abilities. As of right now I have 1 person to speak to who is fluent in Irish. I can watch TG4 and use the internet, but even then I don't get the vibrancy of the spoken language in person. So I sort of sympathize with anyone trying to learn something for their heritage that isn't a common high school language (Spanish, French, German, etc) because its very difficult. On whether its fair to that culture I don't know, but often even people who follow only the bad Americanized stereotypes do feel close to their heritage, and most would probably learn more if they knew where to find the information.

By the way RabbitWho since you seem to be pretty knowledgeable,do you know a good school for an American to study at if they want to study Irish? I've been planning to go abroad spring semester, and I've had both Galway and Limerick recommended to me,but nothing specific. I know you all study in school before college so I'm not even sure if there are beginners courses I could take, since my Irish is currently poor.


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