Thursday, October 11, 2007


why does it always seem like immigrants who speak english as a second language are always the loudest talkers?

today i went to sears at lloyd center to look for socks and underwear for my son. some africans were shopping in the same department as i was. by the way- before anyone knocks what i'm about to say, i love when i see true africans here in america. even though they seem not to like us black americans, i still like seeing them and i'm glad they're here.

so today at sears, these africans were talking SO. LOUD. i swear people upstairs could hear them too. they were looking at boys' clothes, trying to decide, i guess what to buy. they were going on and on, in this really active discussion about...something clothing related. who knows. they were totally oblivious of anyone around, as well as me as i tried weaving in and out of their 5-person shopping crew.

i don't have an issue with them speaking their own language, really. i just thought it was interesting that they didn't have the slightest care who was around or who heard them.

i'm trying to think how can i convey how loud they were talking....i guess if you imagined sitting on your front porch and talking loud enough for someone on the sidewalk to hear you-that's about how loud they were.

i mean, when i see an american-born person talking that loud, my first impression is that they're just ghetto. but in this case, i don't think they were ghetto. maybe it's a cultural thing. maybe americans are the only ones who are obsessed with being quiet in the store, because i've noticed certain other immigrants doing the same thing way more often than another group of immigrants.


rose said...

It's probably cultural and relative. Lucky them that they feel comfortable enough to be themselves. When I was a foreigner, it was in a place where people were so mouse-quiet that I was often shushed outside, downtown, for what I thought was pretty normal talking. (It was my volume, and not content that was being shushed!) Eventually, I conformed and was totally mortified by my loudmouthed visiting friends and family and kept shushing them. It's funny how culture works its way into and under your skin.

Leigh Anne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leigh Anne said...

I suspect it's a cultural thing... In rural areas of South Africa (can't be too sure about the rest of the continent) black Africans are taught from childhood to speak up when speaking in public.

Hushed whispers indicate gossiping, witchcraft and possibly even treason!

So if you have something to say, you need to say it loudly enough for everyone around you to realise you're not gossiping, a witch or plotting your chief's demise...

It's interesting that you mention black Americans do it too... I wonder if it's something that they've carried with them from Africa?

Maybe it's not being ghetto, it's being African?

another anon said...

It's funny you should think that...I live in the UK and a lot of the British find many Americans loud and know that ol’ stereotype of the overweight, loud voiced Hawaiian print-shirt wearing American? Well he is alive and well and coming to a popular tourist destination near you. We Brits tend to be a quiet bunch on the whole - though when on holiday and after a few sambucas - watch out!! So it is part cultural, part perception. I have seen and interacted with many Africans and it varies - some Africans can be very soft-spoken whilst others are more boisterous...if you have been to the average thriving African city - from Nairobi to Lagos, Gaborone or even Cape town you will be struck by the vibrancy, sights, smells and yes - noise. Everything is notched up a decibel or 20 - it's a way of life which is fast paced, raw, edgy. I guess the way some speak reflects that lifestyle...but by no means can it be described as ghetto. Remember that being "ghetto" is mostly about the way one THINKS.

another anon said...

BTW my response above was in reply to TBG's post, not to the comment by Leigh anne.

Sparkle said...

That;s funny because american tourists visiting overseas are often depicted as loud.

another anon said...

You know TBG I get the feeling that you do not really have a good sense of humour. Every little thing is somewhat magnified to horrendous proportions in your (dare I say it - censorious eyes)..remember to sit back, laugh at this funny, inconsistent, joyous, frustrating anomaly which we call life, smile a little. This is the only existence you are entitled to - why not savour it? I feel you need to learn to enjoy it more - believe me it IS possible even in the face of hardship, struggles or just plain crap people to find the joy and humour in this life. And let's face it - you are not exactly one of the struggling masses are you? You've got a good relationship, rude health, healthy kid's, employment, supportive family and friends network, etc. (I am assuming of course, I may be totally wrong on some or all of these...) So c'mon, quit taking stuff to heart so much. Smile and enjoy the day. What was that biblical saying again? "Vanity of vanity, all is vanity".

Anonymous said...

I saw Jodie Foster in SoHo once. I could hear what she was saying... across the street. Her voice really carried.

Golden Silence said...

I don't think it's an issue of "ghetto vs. not ghetto," but simply people who speak more loudly and freely in a language they're more comfortable with.

If you were in Paris and didn't speak much French, you'd be speaking it softly and tentatively when you did. But if you came across another English-only speaker, you'd speak with more confidence.

That's all it is.

learningtolive said...

ive noticed lots of different types of people talking loud..i attribute it to cultural differences--we arent socialiezed the same..thats all.

now for your comment about them (meaning african-born people) not liking us or not seeming to is such a huge generalization..which i guess you;re entitled to bc its your blog lol but i hate to see anything painted in broad strokes...i and many people i know have had both experiences and i can say that having visited a few countries i was welcomed and made to feel very much like i was at home..its amazing the images of us born in america that get splayed around the globe--- people should have the presence of mind to realize that what you see couldnt possibly be the sum total and if we dont, they need to be shown lol or ignored :-)

learningtolive said...

sorry that post has tons of mistakes:
by both i mean good and bad experiences and with regard to meeting people who have preconceived notions about based on images they've seen or stories they've heard...either take the time to educate them if they seem receptive ( cultural education from both parties is best) or ignore them if they seem resistant to looking past sterotypes

nice blog..i somehow found my way here

brazilian said...

you're kidding right?!

i can *barely* hear the some of the vietnamese in my neighborhood, some of them speak so softly.

keep it real said...

I wouldn't like someone coming up on me like that or white etc. I suggest that you visit other cities/states just to see that not all blacks are loud talkers and that there is also white ,latinos, get my drift the list goes on. i just saying color has nothing to do with loud talking.

Anonymous said...

Loudness has a great deal to do with delivery .Many people of african origination have deep singing voices are naturally wonderful singers and also practice singing .The USA accent is sung and it economical style lends itself to a form of lyricism and volume
There is also a strong biomechanical relationship between facial bone structure-including teeth , body physique and delivery .On another note
I was disturbed by the authors use of the word `ghetto` .It smacks of dicrimintion - discrimination between economic class which seems to be totally acceptable and widespread in the USA.

Crystal said...

sounds like a couple of realitives i know. Well as a Nigerian living in America, there is a huge difference between what we would call an African immigrant and an Afican American in so many ways whether it be behavior, culture, etc. the list just goes on. i think that Africans, as well as other foreigners, are simply unaware of how their volume is factor of proper or improper behavior in places like stores, libraries, schools, and so on. and because they aren't used to how it's like over here, they've still yet come to realize that about America's culture.

But interesting blog!
I'm a little dissapointed you haven't updated in a while but hopefully you'll continue soon ^____^ you have really good writing skills and what you talk about are things that i've been trying to blog about myself but i don't think i do as good of a job as you do.

octathorpe said...

I've been looking around the internet trying to understand the cultural differences of African Immigrants as my apartment complex is primarily African. I'm a white guy. I knew my building was primarily African when I moved here, and didn't think much of it - didn't think I was capable of being annoyed by a culture. Here in St Paul MN, the Africans in my building are LOUD. ...I'm trying to understand their culture so I'm not so annoyed, but it is difficult.

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