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Bias and disappointment

I know this discussion really has nothing to do with learning a new language but in a way it kind of does. So please don't take down this discussion duolingo :/ . In recent days I have found that more and more people assume the worst of you when you speak your native language or do what you believe in. When i was at the store 3 days ago, I spoke spanish (my native language!) to the store clerk to ask where the locks were. Some guy over heard me and immediately rushed over to tell me to get out of his country and that i should be arrested and killed for "dishonoring" his pride. He went on and on about how when i grow up im going to assault children, shoplift, kill, etc.... Eventually the clerk calmed him down and escorted him out of the store. Its not just with spanish speakers its with other people too. Im not sure when (last week i think?) i was walking through the park and i saw this muslim woman praying beside a tree. I wasn't offended or anything but this group of three obviously were. They ran over, told her to quit praying because it was "disrespectful". Obviously, she refused. They got so mad that they pushed her over, took the mat that she prayed on and ripped it to shreds. This event gathered a group of probably ten people and each one of them helped the lady and kicked the group with malicious intent out of the park. Events like these really make me upset. Has anyone else seen or experienced events like these?

September 6, 2017



Directed discussions related to language and/or Duolingo. The discussion you posted is on topic for the forums as it fits that criteria and doesn't violate the Community Guidelines or the Terms of Service. ^_^

Language is inherently social. And using it comes with consequences, some good, some bad, and some that are simply useful in getting us through our days.

As people who are using language everyday and also learning new ones, it is good to be aware of how language can impact us and others. I am sad but unsurprised to read what you have written. Though, my lack of surprise does not equate to apathy.

When I was in university, one assignment we were given was to read and debunk this article called "Class of Civilizations". It is an article that vastly influenced government policies in the United States. I was horrified when I learned that. Basically, it asserts that cultures will clash violently unless people from different groups are kept separate.

Reading what you wrote made me remember back to that assignment. Contrary to it's claims, people from different groups are more likely to clash when they don't have regular, authentic interaction with each other. When they are separated, they are left to imagine the worst of one another, especially when it allows them to blame their problems on the ideas the people have passed to them about "the other". But, actually it is keeping groups separated that can lead to clashes when those groups meet.

Imagine a dog that was raised in a single environment with only a few of the same people ever interacting with it and no other dogs. Then, take that dog to the city and release it into a dog park. Chances are high that the fear and anxiety could result in an aggressive posturing or outbursts. Now, take a puppy and introduce it to lots of people and dogs and environments while it is growing up. Chances are high that it will have less anxiety and aggression than the other dog. (Of course, there are exceptions. But, they are exceptions.)

That person who harassed you, they probably don't have friends who speak the language you were speaking. Those people in the park, they probably don't have Muslim friends. So, it was easy for that person in the store to use you as an outlet, so they have someone to project their fears and anxieties onto. Same with that woman who was praying. Those people did not have adequate information about either of you. Instead, they used aggressive behavior towards both of you to comfort themselves.

Hopefully, while each of us is on a journey learning new languages, we will take time to get to know the culture and make friends with some of the native speakers. :)


You are a very philosophical Moderator.. It's good to hear your thoughts. Languages are for uniting people ! :)


The dog analogy is very simplistic. There are a huge number of complex and complicating factors in how compatible different cultures and ideologies are with one another; simply interacting won't make people get on if, for example, they have opposing goals. Every culture is a vast spectrum of subtle social programming, and every one of us has a place on this—introduce your puppy to antithetical ideas and it will still have to choose one or the other.


It is indeed a simplistic analogy, as analogies often go. Pick any analogy beyond the useful part and it won't hold. They aren't intended to. However, it made its point. If isolated from difference, people are more likely to experience anxiety and tension when encountering it. They will be more susceptible to fear and aggression. As technology advances, populations grow, and the environment does its thing, we will be forced to interact. Hopefully, we will work to give that interaction its best chance.

Even people within the same group can have different goals that lead to conflict, so, it's not surprise that people from different groups can experience likewise. The difference is that I'm not likely to attack my friend just because I see them praying or speaking another language. If they are my friend, they can be from another culture. And, that I am aware of, there isn't a culture that has such opposing goals that 100% of people from another culture could never made a friend across the border.

Cultures aren't static. Neither are the people participating in them. We're more complex than only having one goal. I too am not a puppy. And, I am able to hold competing ideas simultaneously. Most people are they just don't realize that they employ one or another given the circumstance.


Of course you will never find 100% disagreement, but in cases where, for example, you have beliefs like 'this land is ours' vs. 'no, this land is ours' that have become deeply ingrained within their respective cultural identities, socialising the two isn't, in itself, going to solve an irreducible problem.
But solving the problem requires a change of (one or both of the) cultures, which itself means a loss of cultural diversity. In some cases this process has caused a loss of languages and their associated cultures entirely, which I certainly don't necessarily consider to be a good thing.
I am not proposing a solution to this; merely thinking out loud, as it were. I feel that there is something not quite right with your argument, but I cannot put my finger on it. I suppose I could start off by asking 'what is the inherent value of a culture and how is it to be determined?' And, secondly, by asking 'how is one to differentiate between the authentic evolution of a culture and its erosion?'

I should be very interested to hear your thoughts on these questions, if you can spare the time.


Umm.... Yes, I have. It's not easy sometimes being Asian. Let's admit that. But remember, there's quite a lot of hot-headed people, and that doesn't mean they're always like that. You never know what they've been through, and maybe they've experienced something we haven't. All I can say is, LuisRamos709109, forgive him. I know it's hard but do it. I've been hurt more than once because of stereotypes before, and if I don't forgive the people, I can't help but be a bitter and nasty person, no better than how they've acted. If we all keep counts of wrongs, who would be left? We're all sinners, therefore unless we repent we can't help but experience or make experiences on others of this kind. Hope this helped


I myself am not righteous either. I am not perfect, and I make mistakes.


A lot of people should read what you wrote!


I live in Australia so we don't have any worries with Spanish here. Muslims well that's a different story. I believe what those people did to that Muslim lady was wrong, and it should be condemned. I believe racism is always wrong if the only reason you're racist is because you don't like a specific person because of their looks or Background. I personally believe that Islam is a bad Religion but I think those people took it too far. That's my opinion.


Islam has 1.6 billion followers - a large percentage of the world's population. I'm glad that you disapprove of the way that woman was treated. However, characterizing a religion as "bad" is quite concerning as some people (not you obviously) use that as an excuse for bad behavior and to treat other people poorly. It's a very slippery slope and leads to all sorts of problems.


Islam has 1.6 million followers - 23% of the world's population.

1.6 million is certainly not 23% of the world's population. It might be a small world, but it's not that small...


;-) I meant 1.6 billion followers.


I think as long as we condemn the actions of people who take things into their own hands. I am a St. Johns volunteer which is a first aid responder person and we are taught that even touching someone with out permission if their able to respond and say no is an assault. I think taking physical action against someone is wrong unless you're a police officer or some one in the field of security, defense, etc.


Always think to yourself "Is what this person is saying a reflection of me or a reflection of them?"

This should help to put things in perspective. You cannot "unmake" someone say something disgusting or terrible but you can immediately reinforce within yourself that this person is projecting their own insecurity or fear.

But this has absolutely nothing to do with who you are.

If the person is rational enough to discuss this with, you may stand a chance of persuading them to consider thinking differently. But, if you are dealing with an irrational person, you cannot have a rational discussion so your energy is better spent doing something positive.


I agree. If someone is just calling you names or doing something bad then it is not a discussion they want. But if someone is honestly talking to you about issues then that's another story. Yelling and screaming is never very good, you need to have a conversation if you want people to hear what you're saying.


Well, I have had people assume the worst of me because I'm black, but that has nothing to do with my language. I don't have personal knowledge of your experience because my native language is English and I live in America. Even when I traveled out of the country, I was never treated so rudely. I'm sorry you went through those things. Part of life is to defy the odds and overcome adversities. You know who you are; don't let anyone else define you. ^ ^

I suppose with the religion thing, people assume that I'm a bigot or a "homophobe" because I'm a Christian. Oh, and apparently I believe in stupid fantasies... The insults won't end, but like another user stated, we have to be stronger than those who intend to hurt us.


All of your comments are really helpful! Thank you all!


There are a lot of stupid people in the world, but I don't think this is really the forum on which to express your frustrations about them. As you say, it has not much to do with language learning. In the case of your Spanish-speaking story, I think you must have just happened to cross paths with a slightly deranged individual.


"I think you must have just happened to cross paths with a slightly deranged individual."

The fact that it was expressed in such an openly hostile manner does seem deranged. However, attitudes towards people who speak other languages is sadly not all that unusual.


I wouldn't say deranged. Some people are perfectly normal and then there's just something that ticks them off and they take it into violence.


Well, that's where we differ. Violence is unfortunately not unusual. However, I wouldn't personally call it "normal." Getting ticked off because someone speaks another language in your vicinity is not the sign of a healthy, well-balanced individual.


When I think of deranged I think of mentally ill. I don't think at all that getting angry at someone for speaking a different language is right. But I don't think you have to be mentally ill to get angry at tings like that.


Hi Luis -

People who feel that their "pride is dishonored" or "disrespected" because of someone else's language or culture have a very shaky and insecure sense of self. Because they don't have a strong sense of identity, they need to align themselves with something greater than themselves, thus deriving pride from their culture and language rather than their own accomplishments or character.

Anyone who doesn't share that language or other cultural aspect is seen as a threat. Most are unlikely to be aware of this and not likely to admit to it either. They push other people down to make themselves feel better about themselves. They actually feel bad about themselves but as they don't acknowledge that, their feelings of "being bad" or "not enough" are projected onto other people. Others become the bad people as compared to their own "goodness" and "pride."

Hopefully, Duolingo will encourage other people to not only learn other languages but to be more accepting and learn about other cultures. I grew up in an environment with multiple languages and cultures. That is what I prefer.

Unfortunately I have seen/heard similar incidents to what you described although it's generally not been directed at me. I'm sorry that you had that experience, but am glad that the shopkeeper escorted him out of the store. Bad behavior shouldn't be tolerated. It is very upsetting.

When in London recently, a man said some very crude things about the muslim women who had been waiting peacefully for the bus. He said "foreign xxxxx." This wasn't directed at me, but as a non-British woman walking down the street, it was very disturbing and difficult to forget. I felt a little better because I heard his wife yelling at him, "What are you going on about? They didn't do anything."


I believe it must hurt to see these things. But imagine your school has thousands of bullies, the teachers don't teach, the principle does not come everyday... You complain to the school's counsler who actually does the right thing. She would tell you to carry a cup of water around, WITHOUT SPILLING A DROP. What would you do? You would focus on the cup. At the end of the day, She asks you if the principal was here today, You would say? I don't know, I was focused on the cup. I recommend that you ignore things like this, or try to stick up for the person who is the victim. Or find another focus. I give myself challenges, like find a person with pink converse to keep my mind off of this nonsense comments from rude people. I am an Indian, And every time I get a test back, People are like "Your an Indian, You smart". Maybe people should realize that everyone is different.


This is a brilliant comment and applies to all aspects of life, not just language. Thanks. :)


I'm sorry this happened. Events like this make humans look like sh*t. I guess we can excuse his behavior by saying he is mentally ill or has no access to his meds. America is transitioning and confused. Being bilingual is a major step toward understanding and growth.


sloughing all of the hateful, violent people of the world into the category of mentally ill people increases stigma, suspicion, and isolation onto the mentally ill, who are most often the targets of violence, not the perpetrators.

To assume that all anti-social behavior = illness, and pro-social behavior = health is to strip context away from other situations. People who choose harmony over intervention during genocide are just as actively involved in murder when they are staying home or looking the other way, instead of intervening. Are they more mentally fit than resistors who put economic pressure on companies to pull their financial support by destroying corporate property? Context is important. Maybe he was mentally ill, maybe he was just a hateful, violent person who learned something biggoted, accepted it, and continued accepting hateful bigoted narratives that he eventually relied upon to justify violent actions.

That is a side topic though and could easily get way off of the main topic at hand. So, I'm not planning to follow it beyond this comment I just wanted to speak up to point out that not all violent people are violent because they are mentally ill.


I'm still sorry this happened to you. I withdrawal my mental illness excuse. I was guessing mental illness because I was being kind. There is no hope for violent, single minded bigots. Hopelessness is a place I cannot go. This exact story is all over FB....is this you also?


It is important, to find hope. I"m not sure. If you have a twitter, would you DM me @usagiboy7 a link to what FB event you are referring? I don't want this side discussion to derail the main discussion here. :)


Sorry...I'm not twitter-ing. No worries.


It's not just foreigners. Australia's former Prime Minister just got headbutted by some random the other day.


It's really fine, I've never experiences anything this extreme, but there will be people like this. FIRST OF ALL, if you are in the U.S (as a resident), but aren't a Native American, YOU ARE AN IMMIGRANT. YOU immigrated from Europe and don't do the whole "My family has always lived in the U.S" on me! Everyone who claims to be 100% American originated from England. Disappointed to hear this, but there are always good people there.


Ignorance often fears excellence! Haters like that are not easy learners; don’t waste your time on them. I applaud your ambition, but mostly your sensitivity to the lives of other people.

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