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Old 07-12-2009, 11:32 AM
guizot guizot is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: An East Hollywood dingbat
Posts: 7,732
Originally Posted by ShibbOleth View Post
Why do you need to? I don't care what most "white" people's ethnic background is.
Yes. In casual encounters (such as walking down the street or in the market) it's not really necessary to know someone's exact ethnicity, even though you observe that the person is probably from East Asia. Even then, a person of Chinese ethnicity could be from Thailand or some other Southeast Asian country.

In a social context (a party, etc.) I might be curious just to know "where s/he's coming from." OP doesn't make clear, though, whether this is includes Asian-Americans, something more important if you want to strike up a conversation with someone. Usually it's pretty clear before someone speaks if they were born in the States or abroad. If someone is from East Asia, I usually can tell which country it is, but I can't really say how I know specifically. Of course, once you hear someone speak, or see their first and last names, it's pretty obvious.

And in my work it's of technical interest because I deal with English language instruction, and different native languages cause different kinds of "interference."

I agree with Ishaw that "fashion trends, carriage, [and] manners" can help give one an idea about a person's origin. On the street I can usually tell if a person is a European student or tourist, but it also has to do with context. In Havana, most Cubans think I'm Italian, simply because few people from the States (of non-Cuban origin) go to Cuba.