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Q&A: Obama, McCain speak no foreign language

English only for Obama, McCain

Sen. John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone and represents a state with a large Hispanic population but apparently doesn't speak even a little Spanish. President Barack Obama spent four years in Indonesia as a youth, when one can easily learn a foreign language, and yet I have never heard him utter a word of that language. Can they speak any language other than English?

While campaigning in 2008, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said American parents "should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual. We should have every child speaking more than one language.

"That's a good thing," Obama said. "I know, because I don't speak a foreign language. It's embarrassing.

"You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German," Obama said. "And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup!"

Obama lived in Indonesia between the ages of 6 and 10. His kindergarten teacher, Iis Darmawan, was quoted as saying Obama quickly picked up the local language, but a White House spokesperson says he didn't retain that knowledge.

McCain, Obama's Republican opponent, also speaks no foreign languages. He has said that anyone who wants to become a U.S. citizen should learn English to be successful, but has also supported bilingual education to help students learn English and has opposed English-only ballot initiatives, saying: "We don't need laws that cause any American to believe we scorn their contributions to our culture."

Some servers skip the change

I realize most people pay restaurant bills with credit or debit cards. As a person who still pays with cash, I've noticed that many waiters exclude the cents when returning change. For example, a $23.52 bill paid by two $20 bills will result in $17 change. Is it too much trouble to mess with the 48 cents change? I would imagine management would take a dim view of this cavalier attitude. The boss still has to pay the sales tax.

We've also noticed this at some restaurants, though in our experience it is still the exception instead of the rule.

And yes, we doubt many restaurant owners would feel kindly to giving away 48 cents on a dollar!

We always recommend bringing the discrepancy to the attention of the server and asking that it be corrected — whether it's in favor of the customer or the restaurant. It's the honest thing to do.

If that sort of exchange makes you uncomfortable, you can always communicate your feelings with your tip.

Q&A: Obama, McCain speak no foreign language 05/02/10 [Last modified: Sunday, May 2, 2010 5:30am]

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