Intercultural knowledge (Comprenez?)

April 1, 2007
Posted by Jay Livingston

Foreign students in the US are often dismayed at how ignorant American students are about other countries. Not just ignorant but incurious. So I was interested in this poster that’s all over Paris metro walls these days.

How many Americans could decipher a visual pun in foreign language? Certainly not enough to make it worthwhile to advertisers. (Of course, if they could offer round-trip to London for $90, they wouldn't have to worry about ads.)

The problem of ethnocentric ignorance goes beyond pop culture trivia, and it’s certainly not confined to the young. Soon after taking office, the Bush administration decided that it could change the politics of the Middle East, and in 2003 it launched that policy with the invasion of Iraq. But the ignorance of the region’s culture and religion is stunning. Last October reporter Jeff Stein revealed that many high-level government people working on counter-terrorism didn’t have a clue as to the differences between Sunni and Shiite, didn’t even know which branch of Islam was followed by Al Qaeda or Iran.

If you didn’t get the poster reference, you can find the answer here.

1 comment:

Polly said...

Thanks for this analysis. You always seem to discuss the questions I ask myself. I meant to wirte a post about "les Beetles", so am glad you nailed it so well. Part of its appeal might also be the hundreds of thousands of anglophones living in Paris as well.