Neurotypical People Are Weird (Part 1)


(Note: The following text is a satire.)

Neurotypical people are weird. They do all kinds of silly things. They are emotion-obsessed, easily distracted by novel stimuli, and insist upon participating in silly social rituals that they consider mandatory. Their odd lifestyle choices and preferences in how they like to communicate would be their own problem and none of my business, but, alas, I routinely have no other choice but to communicate with a neurotypical person.

If neurotypicals only engaged in silly activities and left me alone to live as I prefer, then I wouldn’t care. After all, other people are free to live as they want. But instead they actually demand me to imitate their nonsensical behavior. Unfortunately for normal people like me, communication with neurotypicals is made harder by the fact that they mistakenly perceive themselves as “normal” and their own typical communication preferences as normative. In order words: They expect me to accommodate their preferences, and they tend to become offended whenever I don’t feel like wasting my time on elaborate linguistic constructions that are nothing but empty lies. Whenever I am reluctant to follow their silly norms, they will complain that I am being rude towards them.

Neurotypical people speak in riddles and communicate via subtle hints.

Speaking in riddles would be annoying enough already, but what’s worse, neurotypicals actually expect other people to correctly decipher their cryptic messages.

For example, on one occasion, a weird person asked me whether I am a Vulcan. That’s a nonsensical question. How can a rational person even answer to something like this? “No, I cannot possibly be the Roman god of fire. You might have some doubt about whether I am a human or a chatbot, but I certainly cannot be a mythological figure.” As another person explained to me, by asking me whether I am a Vulcan, “They were trying to flag that they thought I was being extremely distant about something they did not think was a matter people should think about dispassionately.” Firstly, how the hell am I supposed to decipher such a cryptic message and correctly figure out all the implications somebody meant? Secondly, of course, I am dispassionate during some random online conversation. Why should I be emotional during what is just an exchange of written comments?

Alternatively, neurotypicals will imbue words, phrases, and statements with weird connotations that remain unknown and unnoticeable for a normal person. Yet the moment a normal person uses some word in a way they perceive as incorrect, neurotypicals will attack them like a pack of hyenas. For example, in a conversation I once mentioned that “I am a polyglot.” Three weird people ganged up on me, attacked me, criticized me for bragging, even diagnosed me with narcissism.

According to them, “Anyone who refers to him/her/themselves as a polyglot is just about bound to be a tiresome, pretentious @sshole.” One of the weird people also stated that:

Nobody who isn’t trying to brag, or drafting a jacket bio for their upcoming book (same diff, maybe), should be referring to themselves as a “polyglot”. It’s just one of those words non-asshats don’t use in a sentence that starts with “I’m a(n)” — see also ‘autodidact’ or ‘very stable genius’. If you do speak several languages, just say that. Or say what they are.

A normal person can only wonder at the nonsensical nature of such statements. Phrases “I am a polyglot” and “I speak several languages” are absolutely identical in terms of what information they convey. How can it even be possible for one of these phrases to be bragging while the other one is acceptable? It just makes no sense.

Neurotypicals can never cease to amaze a normal person with all the ridiculous meanings they assign to some words. Trying to keep up with all this nonsense is an uphill struggle. Sure, you can learn that when a poet says, “Her eyes looked like sapphires,” the author actually wanted to convey that those eyes were beautiful rather than literally looking like stones. But neurotypicals will continuously invent new weird meanings for existing words. And they will do it so quickly that a normal person cannot keep up with memorizing the meaning of each new weird thing they hear.

And how are we even supposed to learn the meaning of all these odd linguistic inventions? It’s not like there exists a dictionary with a compilation of all the weird things a normal person can hear from neurotypicals. For example, the dictionary entry for “polyglot” doesn’t warn normal people to abstain from using this word while having a conversation with neurotypicals.

Never mind the cultural differences. The same word or phrase can be value-neutral in one culture while still having some connotations in a different culture. Good luck keeping up with all this nonsense if you are a polyglot who communicates with people from numerous different cultures!

Neurotypical people label direct statements as “rude.”

The “politeness rules” neurotypical people tend to have are often nonsensical. Many neurotypicals are overly sensitive, react negatively to us saying things directly, and are unwilling to be honest with us and directly inform us about things we do need to know. One of the most frustrating rules is that merely stating facts often gets perceived as rude. If a neurotypical person asks me whether they look good is some clothes, an honest answer like, “These pants are too tight for you, they make you look fatter by emphasizing the outlines of fat on our belly,” wouldn’t be appreciated.

If there is a potentially unpleasant message I have to convey, then I must use euphemisms and sandwich the real message in between a nonsensical amount of small talk and pleasantries. Let’s say a neighbor started smoking next to my open window. I couldn’t just ask them to stop doing this, I would have to spend at least several minutes in a useless conversation during which I would have to casually slip the one message I actually wanted to convey.

This weird distaste for direct statements can show up anywhere, also when you least expect it. For example, I once stated that I intend to remain childfree, because I perceive baby screams as irritating and dirty diapers as stinky and disgusting. A weird person had to object about this, according to her, by stating that “I see babies as disgusting screaming bundles of stinky bodily excretions,” I was advocating violence towards children. Of course, that’s nonsensical—no normal person could come up with something so weird. “Let’s beat up some kids” or “spare the rod, spoil the child” are examples of statements that advocate child abuse. But me directly stating that baby poop is stinky is no way suggests that I perceive child abuse as acceptable (of course, I don’t; I strongly oppose any forms of child abuse).

If some parent believes that their baby’s poop smells like roses, they are free to have an opinion, but instead of accepting that people can have different opinions, some weird people actually get offended when I directly state that I happen to have a different aesthetic opinion. In this particular conversation, the weird person had clearly expected me to tone down my language and resort to euphemisms while discussing my reasons for choosing to remain childfree.

Being expected to practice self-censorship and having to use euphemisms and complicated linguistic constructions that obfuscate the truth is annoying.

The worst linguistic nightmares happen when trying to get sex with a neurotypical person. Obviously, I strongly prefer to just ask directly, as in: “Do you want to have sex with me?” If they are interested, we could negotiate from there and agree upon something mutually acceptable. But no, many neurotypicals want some odd courtship rituals and silly flirting instead. Those are a real nightmare, because, in addition to nonsensical verbal statements, people also use odd body language and other subtle hints that are literally invisible for a normal person. This is why many normal people choose not to approach neurotypicals for sex (fearing that our advances might be unwelcome) and instead wait for some neurotypical to approach us. However, if you, just like me, are more dominant and prefer to be in charge in a sexual relationship, good luck, because you will need it! You can brace yourself for endless guessing about what the other person wants (or doesn’t want) you to do, because they sure won’t be willing to just state it directly.

Neurotypical people lie a lot. All the time.

When a thief lies that they haven’t stolen something, they do so in an attempt to hide the truth. Lying is rational in situations where you want some fact to remain unknown to other people. Yet neurotypical people lie not only when it would be rational to do so in order to hide some truth, instead they lie all the time for no good reason.

Many people lie, manipulate others, and imagine that they are just being polite. “How are you? / I am doing great, thanks for asking,” is a lie. The person who asks doesn’t truly care about the other person’s wellbeing. The person who answers is aware that an honest answer is unwelcome, thus they will say “great” even if their life is terrible at the moment. It’s a double deception with both people being totally aware about the dishonest nature of this interaction. I perceive such social interactions as pretty nasty. Personally, I don’t like having to lie or being lied to. I don’t want others to pretend to care about me.

Alternatively, consider the cover letters that you have to write when applying for jobs. In those letters you are supposed to explain why you want to work for some company. The only truthful answer would be, “Because I need money.” But no, instead in these letters you have to write about how you want to use your skills in order to help some company. The people who read those letters don’t even believe this nonsense, but no, this is how communication between neurotypical people is supposed to happen.

According to neurotypicals, wasting another person’s time and telling them lies is the polite thing to do. When they ask me how I am doing without actually caring about the answer, they are wasting my time. When they say, “I will call you later,” I end up waiting for the call, thus wasting my time.

Moreover, the same phrases often have different meanings. Consider, for example, the phrase “I will call you later.” Most of the time this phrase actually means “go away.” The problem is that occasionally, instead, this phrase means “I seriously intend to call you later.” How the hell am I supposed to tell the difference? Being a cynic, I usually assume that I was just told to get lost. The problem is that occasionally my pessimism turns out to have been wrong. Just two weeks ago, I was very surprised when a person who had promised to call me actually did exactly that.

Alternatively, when people ask me, “How are you doing?” I usually reply with, “Great,” because that’s the standard reply for such situations. But maybe this time I was dealing with a person who actually cares about me and would have preferred a real answer? How do I tell the difference?

Getting an honest answer from a neurotypical person often turns into a time consuming ordeal. For example, a while ago I contacted a person I know suggesting that I’d like to visit him. His answer: “You wouldn’t enjoy it, because it is boring in my part of the world.” How can a rational person even react to this? Am I really supposed to start a discussion about what I perceive as fun and would enjoy? That wouldn’t make any sense. After more poking, I finally got the real answer—the person I was dealing with doesn’t like having guests, because he perceives it as stressful.

In my opinion, “I don’t want both of us to do X, because I won’t enjoy it,” is perfectly fine as a reply. After all, my friends don’t have a duty to agree to everything I suggest. However, “I don’t want both of us to do X, because you won’t enjoy it,” is problematic, because, in general, each person knows best what they like and what they would enjoy. This reply is potentially patronizing. I am capable of deciding for myself what I would like to do, and others don’t have to question and undermine my ability to tell what I enjoy.

All of these lies make it hard to maintain any long term relationships. I couldn’t care less about my friends not spilling their secrets to me (people’s secrets usually are pretty boring anyway), but I do dislike it when people refuse to give me information that I really need in order to make rational decisions. For example, let’s say I offered to go to an art museum to a friend. They perceive art as boring, but they still agree to come in order to be polite. They will be bored and dislike the experience. After a few such boring experiences, they will start distancing themselves from me. The relationship will be over. Such problems can be easily prevented if the other person honestly says that they have no interest in art, because then we can go over our interest lists and search for some overlap, which allows us to pick some activity that would be interesting for both of us. But no, according to neurotypicals, you cannot just directly tell other people what you would like to do.

Conclusions.

Even though neurotypical people are hard to communicate with, due to their prevalence in the society, the few of us who are normal have little choice but to tolerate their follies and silly behavior. Usually, we have no alternative options but to interact with them. Communicating with neurotypicals is hard and akin to walking on a razor’s edge (notice the idiom: this is the kind of nonsense we must learn to understand). On one hand, you have to use the right linguistic constructions in order to please them and make them happy. On the other hand, if you bend over backwards in order to satisfy their odd preferences, you are likely to become stressed and unhappy, because you feel like a fool wasting your time on silly social rituals and acting incoherently for no good reason. Achieving a reasonable balance between satisfying their silly expectations while still maintaining some integrity and personal emotional wellbeing is a hard task that is made only harder by neurotypicals refusing to directly state what exactly they want from us in any given situation.

———

This was a satire. This text is written in 1st person singular for the sake of expressing a specific message. I intentionally wrote it from the perspective of a person who is extremely frustrated with how neurotypical people prefer to communicate. In this text I intentionally have the speaker address other “normal” people. I share these views only partially. Personally, I am nowhere near as frustrated, because most of the time I actually can comprehend neurotypical people. Situations where I am completely clueless about what somebody is trying to convey are actually pretty rare. Thus being puzzled or frustrated about different communication preferences is something that happens with me only occasionally.

Of course, I do not actually believe that neurotypical people are weird or that their preferred ways of communication are flawed. Instead, I strongly dislike that some people want to pathologize diversity, they want to label people like me as sick or rude and my preferred communication methods as invalid.

The problem with some people is that they imagine themselves to be normative. They want to make those who differ from them invisible, erase our existence. We are taught to mimic and emulate their weird communication patterns. We are taught to fake it, pretend that we are also neurotypical for their convenience, just so that they wouldn’t even have to notice that not every person is like them. The result is that our authentic selves aren’t good enough for them, instead they want us to act, perform their idea of normalcy, and stop living in a way that is comfortable for us.

I do not mind that there exists an adjective like “normal,” which is used to describe some characteristic that majority of people happen to have. However, once you define “normalcy” as “average behavior,” it becomes imperative that it should not be treated as normative. It’s wrong to imply that all people ought to be normal (whatever that even means). Besides, most people generally perceive themselves as normal, others who differ from them are weird. For example, my own preference for very direct communication might be a minority preference, but nonetheless I actually perceive that as normal.

For the record: I have never been diagnosed with any mental health disorder. As a child, I appeared normal enough that my teachers perceived me as only a little unusual and never bothered with sending me to some mental health professional. Thus I do not know whether I actually qualify for any diagnosis or no. Nowadays, I have no interest in finding out whether I am atypical enough to be labeled as something from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

In general, a diagnosis is only useful for figuring out what is happening with some patient, it also aids a therapist with deciding how to help this person. I do not need any help, and I am perfectly happy with my life. I know just fine how to handle social interactions, and I already know exactly how my own thinking patterns differ from those of neurotypical people. Whether those differences are significant enough to warrant an official diagnosis of something is irrelevant for me. Thus I do not know whether I qualify as autistic or no. I cannot diagnose myself, and I have no interest in going to a doctor who could determine it. I know for certain that I am not completely neurotypical, but I have no diagnosis beyond that.

By the way, in case you haven’t already read this one, I highly recommend you to read Allism: An Introduction to a Little-Known Condition by Andrew Main. It’s fun and thought-provoking.

Comments

  1. Callinectes says

    This piece very much listed many of the social frustrations I have with other people and the world. Like you I have no associated diagnosis, I can handle myself well in social interactions I choose to participate in (not so much any of the others) and received no special attention in school because I checked the two boxes of *performs well academically* and *doesn’t get into trouble*.

    Unfortunately I have huge problems navigating the adult world, in particular with regards to finding work and romantic relationships, both of which seem to require the same set of skills and the ability to comfortably spew strings of the right kind of bullshit.

  2. says

    Unfortunately I have huge problems navigating the adult world, in particular with regards to finding work and romantic relationships, both of which seem to require the same set of skills and the ability to comfortably spew strings of the right kind of bullshit.

    The only relationship I have managed to maintain long term is with my current boyfriend who, unlike me, actually has been diagnosed with autism. It helps that we think and live similarly. Thus getting along is very easy.

    As for jobs, some of them require spewing more bullshit than others. In some professions it’s possible to get by without that much human interactions. But yeah, the necessity to spew bullshit really annoys me.

  3. Bruce says

    English has lots of words, so people often expect any word to be clear. But too often, a word will simultaneously have different meanings, which are not distinguished by context. In this case, the word “normal” can mean most frequently encountered. But “normal” can also mean standard baseline reference proper expected or even “best”. Most people know all of this, yet never notice that there is no reason why most common should mean most desirable. It is parallel with the ignorant bigotry of such ideas as thinking that because one grew up surrounded by people of Northern European ancestry, anyone who looks different from that is somehow wrong or undesirable. Fortunately, most people are now educated enough to avoid racial bigotry. But they apply similar unfounded ideas to other situations.
    Another case is that it is common (90%) to be right-handed. A century or two ago, people thought that being left-handed was not normal, so it was bad or sinister or of the devil, so left-handed people were forced to learn to write using the right hand, because the right hand must be “right” to use. No reasons were needed, because common = correct to too many people.

  4. says

    Bruce @#3

    In this case, the word “normal” can mean most frequently encountered. But “normal” can also mean standard baseline reference proper expected or even “best”. Most people know all of this, yet never notice that there is no reason why most common should mean most desirable. … Fortunately, most people are now educated enough to avoid racial bigotry. But they apply similar unfounded ideas to other situations.

    Yes, the same goes for pretty much every statistical minority out there. Neurodivergent, differently abled, LGBTQIA+, etc. people shouldn’t be perceived as sick, inferior, or abnormal.

    Back when I was a child, when my mother got angry at me for something, she often berated me for being “not normal.” That was bad parenting.

  5. says

    For example, on one occasion, a weird person asked me whether I am a Vulcan.

    The “Vulcan” reference is not the god of the forge, but rather the fictional planet in Star Trek from which the fictional character Spock comes from. Vulcans are supposed to be logical and unemotional, which is why Spock’s occasionally losing his shit was a plot point. In fact, the many times Spock claimed to be being “logical” he was usually just being literal. (Or rude)

  6. says

    By the way, Spock is (in the original TV series) half human, which may be why he sometimes melts down and gets all emotional. Thus, Star Trek dispenses with the nature/nurture issue: behavior is apparently mendelian.

  7. says

    Marcus @#5

    The “Vulcan” reference is not the god of the forge, but rather the fictional planet in Star Trek from which the fictional character Spock comes from.

    A reference from some TV series! Seriously!? Am I really the only one who thinks that it is unreasonable to expect other people to be familiar with some TV show?

    Vulcans are supposed to be logical and unemotional

    In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with being unemotional. Some people just are this way. I think that it is immensely wrong for neurotypicals to abuse or merely mistreat some other person just because their emotional experiences differ from what statistical majority of people feel.

    I just don’t care what another person feels (or doesn’t feel) as long as their actions are acceptable.

    Back when I was 17, I managed to get stuck in a dysfunctional relationship with a person who constantly talked about how much he loved me. Nonetheless, I strongly disliked how he was treating me. That’s when I realized that I really don’t give a shit about what some person feels. All that matters for me instead is how they behave and how they treat me.

    It’s also the same on a societal level. Why should it matter what some mass murderer feels? Even if they are deeply unhappy or remorseful, what difference does it makes? Alternatively, if some person harms nobody else and with their actions improves the overall wellbeing of other members of the society, then why should this person be abused and mistreated merely because they cannot feel some emotion?

    Some people are emotion-obsessed for no good reason. And it’s not just their own emotions they are obsessed with, they even want to police other people’s emotional states and enforce their own nonsensical ideas about what a person should feel in some circumstances. Whenever somebody happens to feel differently, they are automatically labelled as evil or at least cold hearted for no good reason even when they actually haven’t done any problematic actions.

    On top of that, people’s ability to feel some emotions is inborn. Nobody chooses to be born with the brain they get. Thus nobody can be blamed for either feeling or not feeling some emotion. While people might be able to control their actions at least to some degree (though that’s still questionable, given how I don’t really believe in people having free will), they definitely cannot control what emotions they feel.

    In fact, the many times Spock claimed to be being “logical” he was usually just being literal. (Or rude)

    People do this all the time. For example, I have heard this particular crap often enough: “The average IQ scores of black people are lower than those of white people. Thus I am only being logical when I say that they are not suited for some jobs.” Alternatively: “I am just being logical when I say that trans women are actually men given how they were born with male bodies.”

  8. John Morales says

    Satire or not, it doesn’t really work for me, because saying “neurotypical people [do X]” does not mean that non-eurotypical people don’t do X.

  9. says

    Still hung up on the fact that someone accurately called you on your “polyglot” humblebrag? Seriously? Dude, people don’t go around bragging about how many languages they speak. It’s considered rude.

  10. dangerousbeans says

    Where’s the satire? 😛

    @WMDKitty it’s also considered rude to keep bringing up past disagreements when they aren’t the topic

    On the topic of rudeness and neurodivergence, I find it interesting that autism spectrum (which seems to me to be what is being described in this piece) people also communicate rudeness better. When the aspec people I know want to be rude you’ll know it, it’s everyone else who does weird shit

  11. John Morales says

    WMDKitty:

    Still hung up on the fact that someone accurately called you on your “polyglot” humblebrag?

    I’ve just read the link, and therefore I can confidently assert that IMO Andreas was not bragging, but rather informing. And it’s hardly an arcane word, except for the lexically-challenged. And furthermore, it’s a most appropriate attribute for a trained linguist — who, BTW, I can confirm (via his personal blog) speaks most excellent English, with far better pronunciation (and enunciation) than my own efforts.

    Seriously, the word just means “speaks multiple languages”.

    (What I hear is envy indicative of a sense of inferiority)

  12. says

    John Morales @#8

    saying “neurotypical people [do X]” does not mean that non-eurotypical people don’t do X.

    Sure. There is a wide variety is how people prefer to communicate.

    dangerousbeans @#10

    Where’s the satire?

    I would not seriously imply that there is something wrong with how neurotypical people prefer to communicate. I understand that their communication preferences are valid, I also understand how small talk, euphemisms, and various white lies serve a purpose for them.

    I wrote this blog post from the perspective of somebody who perceives the communication preferences of neurotypical people as nonsensical and inferior, because I thought that by flipping the perspective I could better illustrate why it is wrong for neurotypicals to label me as mentally ill or rude, or my communication preferences as faulty.

    When it comes to neurodiversity or different communication preferences, they are all valid. No person has a right to imagine themselves as superior or normative.

    I find it interesting that autism spectrum (which seems to me to be what is being described in this piece) people also communicate rudeness better. When the aspec people I know want to be rude you’ll know it

    Yep, when I want to be rude and nasty towards somebody, it is always a deliberate choice. I’m simply not impulsive in general. I also make it blatantly obvious that I really intended to be rude. So far, the only people towards whom I have been rude in my blog’s comment section are transphobes.

    WMDKitty – Survivor @#9

    Still hung up on the fact that someone accurately called you on your “polyglot” humblebrag? Seriously?

    Nope. Being “hung up” would require feeling some emotions about something. I see no reason why I should be emotional about online disagreements with strangers.

    This blog post was written because of an e-mail conversation I had a week ago. I needed more examples, hence that conversation from last year is what I used as an example.

    Dude, people don’t go around bragging about how many languages they speak. It’s considered rude.

    Cultures differ. Communities differ too. You have no right to proclaim that your own preferences in terms of what is or isn’t considered “rude” ought to be perceived as normative and binding for everybody.

    By the way, the Internet is multicultural. Just because we are communicating in English as the lingua franca doesn’t mean that American cultural standards automatically become normative for everybody.

    I studied philology in a university, and in my group everybody knew at least 4 languages. Thus one of the best conversation starters was, “How many/which languages do you know?” The usual follow up statements being something like, “Cool, I’m also just as passionate about learning many languages. How and where did you learn them? And which one is your favorite?” Instead of being bitter/envious of each other’s language count, we shared the same passion and had fun discussing various languages. For example, one of my classmates knew Greek. It was super fun to talk with her about this language and how it differed from the ones I know. We also had a classmate who knew Polish. And I was the only one among us who knew French. Since several of us were learning Italian at the time, it was fun to discuss the similarities between French and Italian.

    I have also spent lots of time in polyglot forums where people discuss languages and how to efficiently learn them. That is another place where people share a passion about languages.

    I personally know many polyglots, and we have discussed our reasons for wanting to learn many languages. The usual motivation was a passion for languages. Many of us perceive language learning as fun and exciting. Often there was also the necessity to communicate with some people who speak said language. None of the people I know learned languages for bragging rights or because of desiring admiration from monolingual people.

    It’s sad that something I am so passionate about only evokes anger and envy from some people.

    I have some drafts for blog posts about how to efficiently learn foreign languages. I was hoping it could be inspiring for others and maybe motivate somebody to at least give it a try and see whether they can learn another language. Languages are really fun.

    It’s a pity that instead people react so negatively.

  13. John Morales says

    Andreas,

    It’s a pity that instead people react so negatively.

    It is unfortunate. I think the negativity is about your perceived arrogance as inferred from your imagined bragging, not about what you supposedly brag.

    I hope you will become inured to it, because it’s not you or how you textually communicate, it’s the perceived arrogance. I get that a lot.

  14. says

    @#14

    It is unfortunate. I think the negativity is about your perceived arrogance as inferred from your imagined bragging, not about what you supposedly brag.

    When other people talk about the cool things they do, usually I perceive it as interesting and fascinating. Occasionally, I even perceive their stories as inspiring in cases where I decide to also try to do the cool thing they are doing.

    Back when I was in my late teens and knew only a few languages, I accidentally stumbled upon some polyglot blogs and forums. I found the people there really inspiring, their successes motivated me to try to learn a few more languages. I didn’t notice any bragging there, people weren’t measuring their dicks by comparing how many languages each person knew, instead they were just passionate about learning languages and supportive of everybody else who also shared the same interests. It was a friendly and supportive community where people shared tips on how to better succeed at what they were doing.

    A single person can learn only a few things in their lifetime, thus most of the time when I hear other people talking about the cool things they do, I am not planning to try to learn those skills. Still, I perceive their stories as fascinating, because it’s great that other people do various amazing things.

    Getting angry and accusing other people of bragging when they merely talk about the cool things they have achieved feels just so twisted to me. A person who is happy with their life and confident about their own value shouldn’t get envious whenever they hear somebody else mentioning that they have learned some cool skill.

    I mean, I certainly can get envious when I hear about people who inherit large sums of money from their parents, but I have never felt envious of another person who successfully learned some cool skill. The former simply got lucky in an unfair world, the latter actually worked in order to learn whatever they learned.

  15. Kreator says

    As you were explained several times back then, being able to learn multiple languages is a privilege that not many people can afford. Most countries’ educational systems are not preapred to teach more than one foreign language and access to learning material can be scarce or expensive. And even if it’s not, what about time? Do you think poor people that have to work day-to-night just to survive have the time to focus in things like these? Because here in Argentina I personally know people who were studying languages but had to abandon them for economic reasons, or in my case just time reasons. If you could learn despite of these obstacles, or without them in your way, more power to you, but that’s not how most people roll. Thus, to bring talk of such kind of skills when it’s not pertinent is privilege flaunting, something to be mindful of in places that care about social justice such as this blog network. To accuse WMDKitty, whose passion for social justice should be well documented by now, of being envious of you is offensive to the extreme.

  16. says

    Kreator @#16

    Privilege flaunting!? Don’t make me laugh! I was born in a country where the GDP per capita is many times lower than in the USA. I was born in a poor family (even by local standards) to a single mother. When I was a small child, I used to play with ice cubes in my house during winter, because my mother couldn’t afford to pay for heating. Back then, my mother couldn’t even afford to buy enough food for both of us.

    My native language is one that is spoken by less than two million people. Getting university education in my native language is fucking impossible, because THERE ARE NO TEXTBOOKS for most topics in this language! In my part of the world, monolingual people cannot even get trashy jobs like a waiter or a shop assistant, because even those jobs require being fluent in several languages. And just look at how all those fucking American tourists treat local people while visiting their poor countries. They dare to complain when we ask for decent prices for all the goods and services we provide them. According to them, we don’t deserve even what would be considered a minimum wage in the USA. You can’t even imagine how often I have witnessed tourists from wealthy countries haggle with locals in poor countries over pennies.

    I am privileged? What a fucking joke. I never had any other choice but to learn the languages of all the fucking colonialists and their descendants. I had to learn Russian, because some years ago they created an empire, which is why nowadays everybody here knows Russian and expects me to able to communicate with them in this language. I had to learn English, because that’s what everybody in the world are speaking, and I couldn’t get a decent job without being fluent in English. Why is everybody using English as the lingua franca? Because those bastards colonized the whole world.

    And I am now privileged, because I had no other choice but to learn the languages of the colonialists? Shut the fuck up!

    Never having been forced to learn other languages is a privilege in itself.

    And let me remind you that Americans are among the most wealthy people on the planet. They don’t have a fucking clue what life is like in poor countries.

    I was born in 1992. When I was 4 years old, my uncle became unemployed, because he didn’t speak English. Before the USSR fell apart, knowing Russian and Latvian was enough to be able to work as an airplane engineer. After the USSR fell apart, everybody was immediately required to know English or else. As a child, I watched my mother and my uncle desperately try to learn English (despite already being in their forties), because both of them knew that a failure to learn English will mean unemployment. My mother managed to keep her job and learn at least some English. My uncle, however, was fired. He spent years without a job and ultimately ended up doing a shitty job for which he was overqualified only because all the good jobs required knowing English.

    Do you think it was fun to grow up with everybody in my family constantly pressuring me to learn languages or else? And, yes, I was under constant pressure. I was told in no uncertain terms that unless I learn foreign languages, I will be washing toilets for a minimum wage. Is that now privilege?

    You don’t have a fucking clue what you are talking about.

    I started learning German and Italian when I was already 19. It is true that by then I was learning more languages, because it had become fun. I actually wanted to learn those languages, and I had a choice about it.

    I learned English and Russian while in my teens. I never had any choice about those languages. I never truly wanted to learn them, instead I knew that unless I learned them, I might as well just kill myself already, because a future in which I would have to wash toilets for a minimum wage was something I really wasn’t looking forward to.

    Saying that people from poor countries are privileged to learn English is akin to saying that people who work 60 hour weeks in sweatshops are privileged to be able to spend so much time at work.

    For example, my mother (born in 1953) learned English in 1990ties. At that time, she was a single mother with a full time job and a minimum wage. If you imagine she had all the time and resources in the world for language learning, that’s incorrect. The difference between her and Americans who whine about how they have too little free time for hobbies is that my mother never had a choice, she had to learn English or else. Of course, having too little free time for learning languages as a hobby is sad, but that’s not the worst thing that can happen with somebody on this planet.

    I suspect that even within the USA many of the poorest people are polyglots, because they are immigrants who know English as their second language. As for the entire planet, many of the poorest people are polyglots. There exist entire countries where pretty much every single person is a polyglot (I grew up in such a country). Thinking about knowing foreign languages as a privilege of the wealthy is factually incorrect.

    To accuse WMDKitty, whose passion for social justice should be well documented by now, of being envious of you is offensive to the extreme.

    At the very least they should have to comprehend that their own culture and their own perceptions about what statements are “rude” cannot be seen as the only valid option that must be enforced upon all the people in the entire planet. Other cultures and other viewpoints are no less valid.

    Do you accuse me of lying when I said that in Latvian language and culture “polyglot” is a perfectly normal word with no negative connotations? Or are you accusing me of lying when I said that I hadn’t previously heard about the word “polyglot” having negative connotations among some English speakers? If so, just state it directly.

    Alternatively, what’s your problem? How can somebody be so arrogant as to imagine that their own culture and their own perceptions about how to communicate are the only valid option that must be mandatory for all the people on this planet?

    If you believe that my culture and my communication preferences are not valid, then I beg to differ.

    Moreover, people who cannot comprehend the validity of different viewpoints aren’t the target audience of my blog anyway.

  17. says

    Speaking of privilege, have you noticed how native English speakers mock people like me for our accents? I wrote about that here a while ago — https://andreasavester.com/why-you-shouldnt-mock-imitate-or-joke-about-other-peoples-accents/

    In some parts of the world, being a polyglot correlates with poverty. It’s poor people whose native language is something other than English who are routinely forced to learn English (or some other rich people’s language) in order to survive and get at least some job. But even when we do succeed with learning English, privileged native English speakers will still deny us jobs and mock us for our accents or because we don’t know their language perfectly.

  18. Kreator says

    One word, Andreas: intersectionality. You can be privileged in one area while lacking privilege in another.

    And let me remind you that Americans are among the most wealthy people on the planet

    And let me remind you, as you were told back then, that the vast majority of the US population really isn’t wealthy at all. And I don’t come from a wealthy country myself either.

    Do you accuse me of lying when I said that in Latvian language and culture “polyglot” is a perfectly normal word with no negative connotations? Or are you accusing me of lying when I said that I hadn’t previously heard about the word “polyglot” having negative connotations among some English speakers? If so, just state it directly.

    What I’m “accusing” you of, to put it in your own terms, is of missing the point entirely. This:

    The word “polyglot” having negative connotations among some English speakers

    Is a stawman of your own making, a completely inaccurate interpretation of the critiques levelled against you. No, the word by itself has no negative connotations whatsover in English, and nobody has implied otherwise outside of your imagination. The problem is in the arrogant way in which you keep using it to describe yourself. The “how,” not the “what.” Back in that topic I linked to before, chigau called you a narcissist. Well, guess what? Even if that’s not your intention, that’s exactly how you really come across: an egotistical, self-important asshole. In fact, in the interest of openness I must tell you that I have actually complained to other bloggers about your conduct in a semi-formal manner, as I don’t think it’s appropriate at all for the network. I still haven’t got a reply, so I ignore whether they agree with me or not and/or they feel this requires any sort of action.

  19. John Morales says

    Kreator to Andreas:

    Even if that’s not your intention, that’s exactly how you really come across: an egotistical, self-important asshole.

    Whereas you are a humble, self-effacing tolerant person?

    Here, let me quote from the OP: “Unfortunately for normal people like me, communication with neurotypicals is made harder by the fact that they mistakenly perceive themselves as “normal” and their own typical communication preferences as normative.”

    (Rather apposite, no? 😉 )

  20. John Morales says

    [OT]

    PS

    In fact, in the interest of openness I must tell you that I have actually complained to other bloggers about your conduct in a semi-formal manner, as I don’t think it’s appropriate at all for the network.

    Are you aware of the intent of this place?

    Here (Link on main bar):
    About Freethoughtblogs

    Freethoughtblogs is an open platform for freethought writers. We are skeptics and critics of dogma and authoritarianism, and in addition, we recognize that the nonexistence of deities entails a greater commitment to human values, and in particular, an appreciation of human diversity and equality.

    We are for feminism, against racism, for diversity, against inequity. Our network of blogs is designed to encourage independent thinking and individual autonomy — freethoughtblogs.com is a vehicle for giving vocal secularists a venue for discussion of their values and interests.”

    Andreas seems like a perfect fit to me, even if you don’t like his discussing his values and interests because you find him arrogant.

  21. John Morales says

    [… and I’ve been reading this place as it was being created, and even before it existed ← humblebrag]

  22. Allison says

    YES. You had the PRIVILEGE of learning multiple languages.

    Gee, I thought “learning multiple languages” was just a natural consequence of growing up in Europe.

    I’m not familiar with Latvia, but just based on history and geography, I would guess that most people there can at least get by in Latvian and Russian, and I’d guess a knowledge of English and maybe German or Polish. The only “privilege” I can think of here is the dubious “privilege” of living in a country that has been dominated by a series of non-Latvian-speaking neighbors, plus the existence of a world-wide imperial power that insists on yet another non-Latvian language.

    For that matter, in my area (NYC area), “learning multiple languages” is more common among people in immigrant communities (who one does not usually think of as “privileged”) than among the well-off white people (who can usually demand that everyone speak English with them.) They need to know the language(s) of the country of origin, plus English. And usually Spanish as well, because of the large number of Hispanics in the less privileged areas.

    If anything, it’s the monoglot anglophones who need to check their privilege.

  23. Allison says

    A reference from some TV series! Seriously!? Am I really the only one who thinks that it is unreasonable to expect other people to be familiar with some TV show?

    If they put you down for not knowing that reference, yes it’s more than unreasonable, it’s an asshole behavior.

    On the other hand, people will often use pop culture references as way of feeling a sense of community with the people who recognize them. (Or an excuse to proselytize). I could imagine, for instance:

    Them: “Are you a Vulcan?”
    You: “what do you mean, a ‘vulcan’?”
    Them: It’s a Star Trek. You haven’t heard of Star Trek?
    You: I never heard of it.
    Them: Boy, you don’t know what you’re missing! [cue: long-winded explanation telling you more than you wanted to know about Star Trek]

    I would see that as simply conversation, of a sort. As long as there’s no put-down for not knowing.

  24. Allison says

    Andreas seems like a perfect fit to me, even if you don’t like his discussing his values and interests because you find him arrogant.

    As for that, being insufferably arrogant seems to be pretty much standard behavior in the Atheist community. (Particularly in this thread.) Andreas, you’ll have to really up your game if you want to compete 🙂

  25. billseymour says

    I agree that “polyglot” is a perfectly good word, and although I’m not one myself, I can understand the joy of learning languages. I enjoyed my high school (gymnasium?) German classes, and I learned a bit of Korean when I was there. (I served in the U.S. Air Force during the Viet Nam era, but I was never in ’Nam, and I make no claim to being a hero.) I still remember the grammar (that’s the easy part for me), but I have almost no vocabulary, and you can’t make a conversation out of (I’ll probably mangle the transliteration):

    Pyunso nun odi e isumnikka.

    (toilet topic where at exists formal style present tense interrogative).

  26. Kreator says

    John Morales is a troll who lives to pick fights and put people down in order to prove his perceived moral and intellectual superiority, a fellow narcissist. His endorsement should count as a huge red flag.

    Oh, and as far as I’m concerned: when it comes to suffering and lack of privilege, my South America beats Latvia by a longshot. Privileged my latino ass.

  27. says

    @ Kreator and WMDKitty — Survivor

    Imagining that you own communication preferences and cultural norms ought to be normative for the whole humanity is arrogant.

    I am not American. Thus American cultural norms cannot be binding for me. I am not neurotypical. Thus I have no reason to pretend and copy various communication preferences that feel instinctively alien for me.

    For my blog, I use American English spelling and punctuation rules. Nonetheless, I use this as the lingua franca. My blog is intended for a global audience. I am not writing for American readers. I have no intentions of writing about American-only problems. Nor do I write about global problems from an American perspective.

    When you look at polyglots around the world, you notice problems like this one — https://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2020/02/02/making-britain-white-again/ The people who have money on this planet treat the native languages of majority of humanity as worse than useless. We live in an incredibly unfair world. While talking about the hardships people face while learning other languages, native English speakers in the USA who have too little free time for a hobby simply aren’t the first victims that will spring to my mind.

    Of course, I am aware that living conditions for poor Americans suck. Still, I am used to thinking about general questions (like foreign language learning) from a non-American perspective. Statistically, Americans are only a fraction of the world’s population. Globally, the number of poor polyglots is much higher than the number of Americans who cannot learn a second language due to having too little free time. Thus speaking about foreign language learning as the privilege of the wealthy is an incredibly American-centric perspective. This is not how things work for the overwhelming majority of the humanity.

    I acknowledge that poor people in the USA have shitty lives with little free time and little spare money. But you cannot demand me to accept American-centric statements like “learning a second language is the privilege of the wealthy.” This statement is true only for a small fraction of the humanity.

    Personally, I would not waste my time reading a blog written by a person whom I dislike. Thus I cannot comprehend why you are wasting your time here. Anyway, communication is pointless without mutual respect. We clearly don’t have it. I have no intention of banning any of you from commenting, but I believe it would be better for all of us to stop wasting our time on prolonging this conversation.

    Also, my patience is over. You have been rude and insulting towards me. There is a limit of how many insults I am willing to tolerate before replying in kind. Despite all the insults directed towards me (I’d say that calling me an “asshole” is an insult), I intentionally remained very polite in the comment section of PZ Myers blog post. Also here, up until my comment @#17, I still remained polite. I didn’t just snap in my comment @#17, instead I started using words like “fuck” intentionally. I am simply out of patience.

    Oh, and as far as I’m concerned: when it comes to suffering and lack of privilege, my South America beats Latvia by a longshot. Privileged my latino ass.

    I never intended to participate in a competition for who has suffered the most. My childhood might have been pretty shitty, but nowadays my life is pretty great. For example, I have a home and enough food while living on a planet where millions of people are malnourished and homeless. I am aware that many people, especially those living in poorer countries, are doing much worse than me.

    Thus my intention was to remind that the world doesn’t revolve around poorer Americans who have too little free time for a hobby. Discussing the general question of foreign language learning primarily from their perspective is problematic.

    a fellow narcissist

    Is it really so hard to comprehend that you cannot diagnose other people with what is a mental health condition? If you were a trained psychiatrist, you wouldn’t even think about diagnosing some stranger based on their online comments. Since you are actually doing that, I can only assume that you have no medical qualifications whatsoever when it comes to mental health issues.

  28. says

    Allison @#25

    Gee, I thought “learning multiple languages” was just a natural consequence of growing up in Europe.

    Yep. This is true also in wealthier EU countries, for example, in Germany most people know English.

    I’m not familiar with Latvia, but just based on history and geography, I would guess that most people there can at least get by in Latvian and Russian, and I’d guess a knowledge of English and maybe German or Polish.

    I do not personally know even a single Latvian citizen who was monolingual. All the older people know Russian and Latvian. All the younger people know Latvian and English. A huge amount of the population know three languages—Latvian, Russian, and English.

    Polish and German are somewhat rare, but still plenty of people know them.

    billseymour @#28

    I can understand the joy of learning languages. I enjoyed my high school (gymnasium?) German classes, and I learned a bit of Korean when I was there.

    Yep. For me, learning my second language (when I was in my early teens) felt extremely hard and pretty awful. But once I finally got the hang of it, learning other languages became super fun and I was hooked. For example, I really love being able to read poetry in numerous languages. Translations of poetry simply pale in comparison. Being able to think in several languages is also really fun. I’m also interested in linguistics and how various languages work internally and express the same meanings.

    I think that even learning a bit of some other language can be really exciting. It’s worth giving it a try even if you have little free time and know that you will never get anywhere near fluency.

    I have plans for future blog posts in which I will discuss effective language learning techniques. It would be cool if I could inspire people to at least give a try learning even a bit of the basics of some language. It’s super fun.

    I still remember the grammar (that’s the easy part for me), but I have almost no vocabulary

    That’s interesting. For me it is always vice versa. I easily memorize the vocabulary, but grammar rules are something that my brain just cannot accept. People’s minds work differently when it comes to how our brain deals with learning languages, which is another fun topic to analyze and discuss.

  29. says

    Why should I be denied the opportunity to see people talk about being a polyglot?

    If bad people have used the word that doesn’t make the word bad. I’ve got sympathy with the use of gendered and sexed language that’s used in bigoted social dominance. I can acknowledge that individuals will experience a word more negativity than positively.

    But my society already has a problem with trying to discourage the use of perfectly good negative feeling words, I see no reason to enable technical language feeling bad like this.

  30. Allison says

    On the (perhaps mistaken) assumption that the brawlers have wandered off to sow their discord elsewhere, I’ll offer my “two cents” to the section entitled “Neurotypical people label direct statements as “rude.””

    There was actually quite a discussion elsewhere on Teh Web (I wish I could remember where — captainawkward.com?) on the subject of styles of communication.

    It seems there are some — subcultures? (e.g., families, social groups, etc.) where indeed saying something directly is considered rude, and people are expected to hint around what they want and just intuit what other people are feeling or want or whatever. And there are others where people (including allistics) are expected to be explicit and to not take offense at anything that isn’t clearly meant to be offensive. You can imagine the misunderstandings and miscommunications when people from one group interact with people from another — I think my mother’s family was sort of the first way and my father’s the second (despite growing up in “The South” i.e., southeast USA)

    So FWIW it’s not so much an autistic/allistic divide as a cultural divide, although I imagine autistics have a much easier time with culture #2.

  31. says

    Allison @#33

    Yes, I definitely agree.

    While living in Germany, I once traveled together with a student from my university. When we got to the hotel room, she said to me, “I feel really sweaty. Do I have to get a shower as soon as possible or can it wait until the evening?” She leaned towards me and asked me to sniff her and tell whether I could pick up the scent of sweat from her. She asked this from me after we had just met, by then we had known each other for maybe two hours. Of course, for me that felt perfectly normal and appropriate, but I know some cultures in which people wouldn’t give another person honest feedback about whether they need to get a shower as soon as possible.

    I perceived German communication preferences as very direct and straightforward. I loved it. I spent a while living in Germany, and nobody ever complained about me being too rude or direct. That was a culture in which I could fit in perfectly.

    In Latvia people also generally prefer pretty direct communication.

    Americans are the ones who are overly sensitive. The overwhelming majority of my communication problems has been with Americans who get offended about everything for no good reason.

    Here are some interesting articles about cultural differences written by a guy who travels a lot:

    https://www.fluentin3months.com/you-are-weird/

    https://www.fluentin3months.com/usa-clashes/

    https://www.fluentin3months.com/german-stereotypes/

    So FWIW it’s not so much an autistic/allistic divide as a cultural divide, although I imagine autistics have a much easier time with culture #2.

    Yes, definitely. Communication for me is much simpler with people from cultures where speaking directly is the norm. I’m pretty bad at noticing subtle messages.

  32. anat says

    Kreator @16: Thanks to the internet the time and money investment required to gain at least some knowledge of languages has been vastly reduced. Right now I am (very slowly) learning Mandarin Chinese using a free app with time investment of about 15 minutes a day. Just for the heck of it. Learning a language more similar to ones I have familiarity with (even if not mastery) should be faster with similar time investment.

  33. says

    anat @#35

    Mandarin Chinese! That’s really cool. I only know Indo-European languages. I have been thinking that I should someday try to learn some very different language just for fun.

    And yes, there are countless free language learning resources online. You can watch YouTube videos, play free games, read news, etc. in your target language. There is no need to pay for some textbook when the whole internet is multi-lingual with a never ending supply of free learning materials.

  34. Kreator says

    And yes, there are countless free language learning resources online.

    And plenty of people with no access to the Internet. I live in a large desertic area with isolated towns that still use satellite phones and the radio for communication, and then people in isolated farmsteads that have to travel for miles to said towns if they wish to use those resources. People that are lucky if they get to visit a large city once a month, or even half a year. Living anywhere in Europe would be an improvement to them, if they could afford to move.

  35. John Morales says

    Kreator, you are on the internet, obviously.

    So, telling me about where you live and its dearth of internet access flaunts your personal privilege. Something you claim to abhor in others.

    (Tsk)

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