The American education system has a secondary language requirement, but it isn’t enough to master the language, and few school-age children continue on to do so. When choosing a language, Spanish and French are the most popular due to those Canadian provinces in the northeast and Mexico to the south. Perhaps it is because American travel to these areas is limited, and generally for vacations only, that the need to master the languages has not become more of a priority.
American sailors are pretty lucky when traveling in Europe, as it is most often the rule in major championships that English is the official language. Heck, there is a good chance Europeans know as much about American history as Americans do. However, in the story below, it would seem that a French serviceman might have forgotten a bit about his own history:
"A US Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included
20 Admirals from the US, English, Canadian, Australian, and French Navies. At a reception, he found himself standing with a huge group of officers that included personnel from most of the countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks, but a French Admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages. Americans learn only English! He then asked, "Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences, rather than speaking French?" Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, "Maybe it's because the Brit's, Canadians, Aussie's, and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German." You could have heard a pin drop.
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