Common language? [was re: black hat .cn networks]

Clayton Fiske clay at
Thu May 10 05:17:47 UTC 2001

On Wed, May 09, 2001 at 06:09:06PM -0400, Steve Sobol wrote:
> Jim Dixon wrote:
> > There is a strange assumption underlying what you are saying here:
> > Chinese people can't learn English.
> Is it "can't" or "don't feel the need to"?
> I don't think it's "can't."
> It is horribly USA-centric to expect everyone to speak English,
> get pissed when they don't, but not at least attempt to speak others'
> languages.

I would hardly call this USA-centric, whether or not you agree with the
behavior. If some other language were becoming as widely-accepted as
English is (and if English weren't), do you think you'd see so many
people advocating English as a "common language"?

The fact that English happens to be it is incidental. The fact that
this particular discussion happens to be about China is incidental.
The point is that it makes things much easier on everyone if we can
all communicate in the same language, particularly when one language
seems to already be emerging as "common".

What happens when I need to contact an admin for whose language no
web translator exists?

> > China's use of the Internet is skyrocketing.  People in China
> > understand that the common language of the Internet is English, and
> > they are learning it.
> But there is nothing that requires them to learn English. Your attitude,
> at best, smacks of provincialism.

I don't recall anyone saying that anybody was required to learn
English. But again, do you object to the concept, or just the fact
that it's English?

> > In fact if you run down a list of RFCs, you will find that a
> > remarkable number have authors with Chinese names.
> I'm sure there are plenty of Chinese people who speak fluent
> English. That doesn't mean they should have to learn English
> to enjoy the Internet.

Nor should you have to learn how to patch and maintain a webserver
to surf the web. But we're not talking about end users, we're talking
about admins. Do admins -have- to learn English? No, but I don't think
it's an unreasonable request when they will be operating a server in
a network where it's the most common language spoken by their fellow
admins, particularly when their machine is in a position to pose a
security risk to others' machines and networks.

But I guess wanting to be able to deal with operational issues in a
common language, whether it's English or not, makes me USA-centric...


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