January 22, 2005
January 17, 2005
.. [T]he fact is that if you speak any other language than English, and then learn English, you can go practically anywhere in the world and communicate since it is the second language of choice nearly worldwide. So the motivation value is high and the rewards substantial, plus, many countries teach it to children at an age when they can soak up an extra language with ease ...
It's just that if you're raised speaking English, one of the primary motivations for learning a second language is nullified.
Americans get a lot of crap from Europeans for not learning foreign languages. But seriously, which one should we learn? I spent ten years learning French and two years learning Swedish, and they do absolutely no good here in Germany. I still hear the joke all the time about how "a bilingual is someone who speaks two languages and a monolingual is someone who is American." Even if Americans worked hard to learn Spanish, the obvious choice in the US, they still would be looked down on everywhere but Spain. There's simply not an easy second-choice language for us, like English is for every other freaking country in the world.
If I had known when I was 15 that I would be living in Germany, I could have taken German in high school. But when you're in high school, German and French seem about equally as useful (read: not at all). And when we do come here to Germany, and we try to learn German (our beginner level German classes are always packed), Germans just roll their eyes at us and reply in English when we try to use it.
My husband came upon a poster in Iraq that was put up by the Honduran troops. He started translating the poster when one of his Hispanic soldiers said, "You can read that, sir?" My husband said that he had taken five years of Spanish and could muddle his way through the poster, but he could use some help. The Hispanic soldier looked my husband in the eye and said, "Don't look at me, I don't speak Spanish." The former-gangbanger from L.A. with the uber-Hispanic name doesn't speak a word of Spanish. I guess English works just fine for all of us.
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