On Mike Wise eating dog food, curling and EU language statistics

On Mike Wise's palate, from a friend:

Mike Wise's cheese comments shouldn't count towards C.O.T.D. I've witnessed him tasting a Milk Bone before!

Wise's response:

It's true, I ate it. It wasn't bad.

On the Potomac Curling Club's open house weekend, from reader and curler Jack:

I saw you ask about the Open House. Well it is after 9:00 p.m. and I'm just returning home from it. That's right the Open House that was supposed to run from 1-4 today actually ran from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m. We had almost 600 people there today alone bringing out total for the two Open Houses so far to nearly 800, and there's still one more of them [Sunday]. The line was actually out the club's door and down the building at one point, or so I'm told. I was on the ice doing sweeping instruction (as evidenced by the blisters on my hands) and when I looked into the warm room it was packed solid with people. I know that around 4:30 some people were told that the wait was going to be close to 2 hours and so they left with the intent to return tomorrow, but OMG, was it insane.

We had a lot of enthusiastic people who were just so jazzed to come out and try the sport it was amazing. Although, admittedly, us poor exhausted volunteers did cheer when it was announced that the final group was starting to make its way through the stations. We love the neophyte curlers to death but there's only so long that one's energy can last while explain the principles of sweeping. It was amazing to see the various groups from obvious college kids (including a group of students from Gallaudet who will be returning tomorrow) to families with their little kids.

Lines out the door? Two-hour waits? How long until my idea of a hipster-courting, high-end-drink-serving, gourmet-cheese-ageing curling rink in the District comes to fruition? Sunday morning, East Coast time, is your last chance to check out the open house in Laurel, if you can tear yourself away from the Finland-Sweden men's hockey final pre-game show.

On Americans' appalling language skills, mentioned yesterday, from reader D.S. in Turin.

Ok, D.S. is actually me. Anyhow, I read a story in the Independent that said almost two in three Britons are unable to speak a language other than English, in effect the worst record in Europe. On average, 56 percent of EU countries' residents can speak at least one foreign language, 28 percent can speak at least two and 11 percent at least three. Amazing. Americans, on the other hand, can speak one language, but they are able to do so very loudly. I learned this yesterday during our ChocoPass tour, when we were trying to get into the small, exclusive chocolate shop Al Bicerin, which makes some sort of chocolate coffee drink, which I still have not tasted. If you google it, you'll discover that every newspaper and magazine in the Western Hemisphere has written about that drink this month. It is the Bode Miller of coffee chocolate drinks. Seriously, there must have been some top-secret guidebook passed out to American Olympic journalists: when you get to Turin, you must write quirky, off-the-beaten-path items about Al Bicerin, curling, cheese shops, Susan Sarandon, Italian bus drivers and Valentine's Day. I scored 100 percent.

Anyhow, there were scads of people at Al Bicerin yesterday, and you could tell which were Americans by the way they chose to use their "outside voices" when addressing the woman who was taking reservations. Not that I was above the fray; at one point I threatened to hit the guy behind me in the head with the present I had recently purchased for my wife, which is heavier than a chocolate truffle but lighter than a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finally I gave up, went inside the church across the street and looked at paintings of the crucifixion.

Anyhow, I haven't found the full chart from this recently released study, but this story notes that German is supplanting French as the No. 2 foreign language in the EU.

And by following this fascinating link, you can look at reams of EU language statistics. I've often promulgated the thesis this month that Dutch people speak better English than anyone in Europe. The EU figures say that the Dutch rank fourth in the percentage of English-as-foreign-language speakers, behind Malta, Denmark and Sweden. Italy is 15th.

I've been encouraged to throw my entire being into such esoteria by this e-mail from reader Erika, another Wise friend:

I started a Multicultural Management class today. A big part of it is regarding adapting to other cultures and knowing the perceptions of our own culture. While talking about the Olympics, I mentioned Dan's blog. My teacher (who is Finnish and is counting the hours until the hockey game) asked everyone to view the blog as examples of how different cultures celebrate/interact/etc. That as well as a good review on cheese.....his story today about catching a cab was perfect for our class discussion on the "Ugly Americans."

So if I'm already being taught in academic circles, I might as well throw in some EU links. Professors, I'm available for guest lectures on cheese, curling, Euro language skills or blogging by e-mailing here. And here are the key foreign language stats from the site:

+ In Luxembourg, nearly everyone speaks another language well enough to hold a conversation.
+ This is also true for more than 8 in 10 people living in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.
+ People in the UK, Ireland and Portugal are least likely to speak another language, with less than a third of these population saying they can do this.

By Dan Steinberg |  February 26, 2006; 7:53 AM ET
Previous: Cheese!Of!The!Day!: Torta di Noci (Not a real cheese) | Next: Shopping, and pin hatred, and nonsense words

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The standard line on Dutch language proficiency is that they realised some time in the 1600s that no-one in the world was going to learn Dutch; so building an empire and trading with the rest of the world would mean learning everybody else's language. It certainly helped when the English imported William of Orange to be king.

I don't know if it applies to their other languages, but the way the Dutch speak English is plain fun.

Posted by: Nick S | February 26, 2006 11:16 AM

Glad to read that by the end of the OLY. we are now refered to as "friends" and not "these girls"! GOLD!

See Dan-WiseGirls don't lie(milk bone tasting)!

Thank you for the awesome,witty, fun blog! Forget about WiseGirls...

Safe travels home...

Posted by: Wise Girls-DC | February 26, 2006 08:36 PM

My personal theory about Dutch proficiency in English (which I also noted - fluent and perfect accents) is that the majority of their television is subtitled, not dubbed. I still remember watching "The Love Boat" in my hotel room, relieved to finally be watching anything in English!

Posted by: Sarah | February 27, 2006 11:28 PM

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