Learner SC
The word "foreigner" in common English

I would like to get a range of opinion on how the word "foreigner" is used now in mainly Australia, England, the US and Canada.


Sometimes we have to alter our language to be 'politically correct'. I now use the word "people from overseas" instead of "foreigner". I feel the word "foreigner" has some unwanted implications. Am I being too careful? Perhaps living in two countries has changed my perception of this word.


If you notice the BBC news, the word "foreigners" is used infrequently.

Jan 6, 2016 6:00 AM
Comments · 17

It's an interesting point, I think it's a bit like how "He's Jewish", "He's Mexican" sounds a little nicer than "He's a Jew", "He's a Mexican".


To me, the distinction becomes even wider when used in plurals: "Jewish people" is fine, but "the Jews" is pretty borderline. You might remember how Donald Trump got into trouble for saying he had a great relationship with "the blacks"...


I think the issue is if you call someone "a Jew" or "a foreigner" it somewhat defines their totality, whereas "Jewish person" or "person from overseas" just adds a characteristic to the more neutral "person".

January 6, 2016

Other phrases I sometimes use are "people from outside of <insert country of choice>"




That's a good point. Reminds me of a joke back in England some decades back when life was less international. Then, people did not travel very far and were less culturally sensitive. A Englishman went for a holiday in Spain. He came back and his friend asked "Did you enjoy Spain?". He replied "No. It was full of foreigners..."



January 6, 2016

In the US, "foreigner" can be neutral, depends on the inflection and context. Sometimes the word is used by people who are anti-immigration, indirectly implying they think of foreigners as strange and inferior. I agree there there hidden meanings, but it depends on the situation. The word "foreign" itself has this hidden connotation in many contexts.

"Immigrant" is the word I hear on the news all of the time, I don't hear "foreigner" as often anymore. Though, I think immigrants are specifically people who have immigrated to a country, and foreigners can be anyone who is not from country xxx.

I don't think people would be offended by that word used in a neutral tone, in proper context.

January 6, 2016

I hope not, I use it frequently, and I am not offended if people refer to me that way. I think context is imortant, I would't say : Carlos is a foreigner. I use it more to refer to people generally. 

January 6, 2016

 I have been for a long walk and I have thought very carefully about this idea.


When do I use the word?  For instance when I hear that "foreign companies with business here do not pay enough tax in the UK" that annoys me.  Would it be better as "companies from overseas with business here do not pay enough tax in the UK" and the answer is no, I see no problem either way.


Living on a large island do I see foreigners as dangerous people, well probably not, in fact when I'm in their country I'm the foreigner and would not mind being called that and when they are here they are the foreigner... seems ok. 


So no, I think there are things worth being sensative about and this is so far down the list as to be not worthwhile.  Let's solve Syria, Trump, Zuma first ;-)


However, I do like that you raised the idea and I had a chance to think about it.

January 10, 2016
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