Friday, July 16, 2010
English is a good example of a language with not too much depth (flawless L1 speakers) but a great deal of width (a large periphery of L2 speakers stretching out to just about everywhere in the world). This width English enjoys is what often makes it the default at airports and international gatherings, where even a slight command of the language is enough to find your way around, order food, listen to speakers talking about subjects in your field of work, etc.
Spanish also seems to have a fair amount of width as well, but because it isn't quite as wide it may not be obvious at first. Reddit.com had an interesting thread today though that showed just how many people are capable of writing something in Spanish if the opportunity comes up. The thread is here, and it was a simple request from an English speaker on how to change his settings from Spanish to English as something on his computer went wrong and everything had turned to Spanish. For some reason, everyone thought it would be great fun to vote up the thread and only write in Spanish to the person who said he couldn't understand it, and as a result there are now 1700+ replies, with almost none in English. Pretty interesting to see on a site that is otherwise nearly almost entirely written in English.