to only speak English?

(34 Posts)
forbiddenfruit85 Wed 05-Dec-12 13:27:46

I wish I knew another language fluently I really do. I know very basic French and German from school, and wish the subject had been pushed more.

Each time I have been asked by a foreigner, how many languages do you speak? I do feel judged when I say - just English.

However I think if I did come from a country where English was not my mother tongue then I would have definitely learnt it and then be fluent in two languages.

evilhamster Wed 05-Dec-12 13:35:14

I think it can be very different if you're in a country where a lot of people around the world speak it. If you are English, as well as growing up amongst people speaking English, most of the oppurtunities you will have will be in English. Top universities are in English, and a lot of universities around the world are English (well, English speaking). People will go on holidays to places like the USA, Canada, Australia- English speaking countries. People going to other popular countries usually find a lot of people will speak English, although it might well be limited.

For instance, I'm fluent in three languages. Icelandic, English and Norwegian. I grew up in Iceland, which is why I speak Icelandic. However, we had English lessons in school and because it was quite an isolated place, the English language gave you more oppurtunities- for instance, a wider range of universities, in the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland etc; When I was a child, it was a time when a lot of people moved out- because there were quite a few limited oppurtunities. They either moved to Scandinavia or Northern Europe, or English speaking countries. We had a need to learn English almost. Norwegian was because I knew quite a few people who were Norwegian. Our lessons, in secondary, for modern languages were English, Norwegian and German. The three main languages which would matter to anyone trying to get a job abroad, move abroad, etc; if they were Icelandic.

Scholes34 Wed 05-Dec-12 13:41:02

I speak English and am fairly fluent in German. Doesn't help if I'm in France or Spain.

I think a lot of people would love to be fluent in another language, but many other countries have their children learning other languages from a younger age. It would be better if children started with a second language as soon as they start school IMO. I am ok at Italian (and keep trying to improve), I can speak basic French and German, but would love to be fluent.

degutastic Wed 05-Dec-12 13:48:08

I speak English, write/read Latin and have basic German and Italian. I'm also currently having a vague stab at Mongolian.

None of which have ever been of any use, since whenever I've been in Germany / Italy, the natives (as it were) have been very keen to show of their (far superior) grasp of English blush Latin is pretty useful in churches though grin

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Wed 05-Dec-12 13:50:07

YABU, but so am I. I only speak English and a tiny bit of French from school, and it embarrasses me every time I travel.

emmam25 Wed 05-Dec-12 13:51:03

I'm the same, I wish I could speak more than just English. I have just about enough touristy French, German, Spanish and Italian to order food or ask for directions.

I do find it embarrassing around Europeans who generally speak at least two languages fluently. But, I have little or no need to speak anything other than English and find as soon as I'm "getting immersed" on holiday, it's time to come home.

My only hope lies in the fact that I am marginally better at languages than my Dad due to his keenness for me to learn them, so hopefully, my son will be better than me! Eventually, someone in our family line might be bilingual! grin

Booboostoo Wed 05-Dec-12 14:05:21

I think it's a huge advantage for young children to learn other languages (having myself learnt English before I even started school) because it comes easily and without much effort.

Having said that, anyone can learn any language at any time, so why not learn now?

forbiddenfruit85 Wed 05-Dec-12 14:10:14

You think so Booboostoo?

In your opinion, how is it best to start?

I looked up classes, but at £300+ its not really money I can justify spending right now.

Scholes34 Wed 05-Dec-12 14:19:00

forbidden - you're quite right. My DF was doing Spanish classes at night school, as he and my DM like to holiday in Spain and he enjoyed showing off his improving linguistic skills each year. However, funding was cut and classes were no longer at a reduced price for pensioners, so he couldn't afford to go. He was looking at £300+, like you say.

redexpat Wed 05-Dec-12 14:21:07

A lot of podcasts are free. I learnt more from my first 'Coffee Break French' than I did from the first 2 years of french at school.

But to be honest you need to find someone who speaks your desired language and have regular conversations in that language, even 15 minutes once a week. Do you work? Are there any sympathetic foreigners at work you could have lunch/coffee with once a week? Failing that, are you in any Mum and baby groups with fluent speakers of other languages?

Forbidden: Go on gumtree, there is a "Your x, my English" section. I had a few replies from people when I posted about learning Farsi, so any other language you would be bound to get a few responses!

I think most English people would feel the same way btw, I certainly do!

SilverBaubles33 Wed 05-Dec-12 15:13:24

I think if you speak English, you can pretty much always find someone to speak to you in most places in the world, so it's less of a survival necessity!

I started a thread recently about a woman who was pissed off when I spoke Dutch to another woman in her house. Storm in a teacup, but it was quite surprising how many people here flamed me for being a show-off to have done so.

I'm Belgian originally and most of my countrymen speak Flemisg, French and German. It's never commented on because it's the norm.

So, good for you. A French friend here speaks almost no English and has found nobody to practise her conversation with; perhaps you could ask at your local HE place and see if there are any non-English speakers who would talk to you in thelanguage you want to learn i return for English conversation? Foreign language radio and TV inconstantly are great for tuning your ear to your chosen language. As is really wanting to learn it - wanting to see a certain film or series in the original? I had a Spanish boyfriend for a while...wink

DreamingOfTheMaldives Wed 05-Dec-12 15:27:17

Forbidden - why not try the Michael Thomas language CDs - they are fairly inexpensive if bought from ebay or similar - you could even ask someone to buy them for you for Christmas. I think they are a great way to learn - they really helped when I was going to Madrid and wanted to learn some Spanish. I had done a beginners Spanish class which was good for the vocabulary but the CDs really helped me to begin constructing sentences. I was surprised how quickly I learned to do so.

I keep meaning to listen to them again as I would like to be more proficient in Spanish - unfortunately I can't plan a trip to Spain to motivate me as money is tight. sad

SucksToBeMe Wed 05-Dec-12 16:04:59

Another vote here for Micheal Thomas. He's amazing.

quesadilla Wed 05-Dec-12 16:21:04

what evilhamster said:
the thing that people forget is that the majority of those people who are fluent in multiple languages have had to be because either they've had to live somewhere where they speak a different language or they need to speak another language for work.
I've tried to learn, at various stages, five different foreign languages and studied them quite hard but the only one I can speak to a reasonable level is the one my husband speaks as his first language. However hard you study something, you'll never really learn it unless you are forced to speak it in order to communicate with people. This is why most Brits/Americans/Aussies have such a hard time --- most places they visit people will bend over backwards to speak English so they never get to that state of total need.
Not to say it isn't a good thing to do... I feel my life has really been enhanced by having a smattering of an understanding of other languages. But unless you are living/breathing a language its a bit academic to just learn it....

GilmoursPillow Wed 05-Dec-12 16:27:23

I used to be able to hold a conversation in German but over the years I lost it which is a real shame.
I've lived overseas for 8 years and don't speak the language of the country I'm in. Most people speak English and everything is in English so there's not the need but I think it's a waste and I'm embarrassed by my lack of language.

I kept meaning to learn (it's not a particularly easy language to learn) but kept thinking "Oh, we'll only be here another year or so, so not worth starting". I could have been fluent by now sad

SantaWearsGreen Wed 05-Dec-12 16:34:50

Its the second biggest language in the world behind Mandarin and it is the language with the most countries that have it as their official language so really you don't actually need to learn another language its just nice to know another.

Learn Mandarin, sounds like the most handy to know given over a sixth of the worlds population speak it.

GreenEggsAndNichts Wed 05-Dec-12 16:47:27

If you just want to get a start, I thought this BBC site was quite interesting.

Also, it depends on the language. If you were keen to get started in German, for example (I am constantly trying to improve mine, DH is from there), they have many resources online. Deutsche welle is brilliant, for example. Or, if you're in London (or other capital city in another country), the Goethe Institut is a good place to visit. They will also set you up with say, Germans who want to practice English, or Germans who will help you with German, etc, I believe that service is free. (can't promise that but it was when I lived in Holland)

There must be similar resources for other large languages?

GreenEggsAndNichts Wed 05-Dec-12 16:50:55

sorry, I didn't respond: YANBU, because so many people do speak English. But, learning another language is a great brain exercise, and it really can be handy for many reasons. People don't always know English, and they will appreciate if you make an effort in their language. I've had many fun experiences trying to chat with people who were determined to make me practice another language. (French, surprisingly! Once you're out of Paris, people are nicer. And so ends my sweeping generalisation wink)

DaddyPigsSecretAdmirer Wed 05-Dec-12 17:05:01

How about checking out local schools? The cost here is only £120 per year for a three year course (beginner, intermediate, advanced.) I'm doing Spanish-and am learning at quite a fast rate. It helps that DP comes too so we can help one another between classes. We were in Tenerife last week and I felt so much better knowing I can at least attempt to communicate with locals. Even though most of said locals were better at English than Yorkshire lass me, grin they seemed to appreciate our willingness to try. DP is fluent in German and I always feel such a numpty stood next to him like a lemon when he's withering away to people when we are there that it feels good to be learning another language myself.

(The main thing is learning to order a jug of sangria. grin )

kelly14 Wed 05-Dec-12 18:13:01

My brother annoys me in that he has lived in dubai 8 years, his wife is indian (sha had never travelled abroad but was fluent in english so came to dubai with her sister, bil and her nephew). She met and married my brother within 6 months, they have now been married 5 years and i have a gorgeous 3 yr old neice and soon to be 1 year old nephew.
But despite my sil obv being fluent in Hindi and her actual dialect of Bengali, she doesnt speak it infront of my niece and neither, its up to them and i would never comment, just cant help but think if she always spoke to her in hindi she would pick it up. And she will obv learn arabic and another language once school age here.
And for some reason my mixed race niece, to english(essex) father and indian mother and living in arabic speaking country speaks with a full american accent!! its quite absurd to hear but makes me laugh every time we webcam lol

riverboat Wed 05-Dec-12 18:41:48

I felt the same way four years ago, so moved to France determined to learn proper French. Meant to only stay for a year, but met French DP and am now here for good, and pretty much fluent in French.

I'm an English teacher here, and I find that generally those who are properly 'fluent' in English (ie have an advanced level) are those who have at some point lived in an English speaing country, or who work almost exclusively in English. Or those who started very young and had properly good lessons throughout their school and university life. Its very hard to get beyond a certain level without this type of experience - though not impossible! Some people are naturally gifted with languages, and it comes to them very easily. Others are the opposite and really struggle despite tons of lessons, practice and immersion experience.

But you can still reach a decent conversational level in, say, French without needing an immersion/in-country experience. I recommend the Michel Thomas French CDs and conversationexchange.com . Good luck!

complexnumber Wed 05-Dec-12 18:49:12

And for some reason my mixed race niece, to english(essex) father and indian mother and living in arabic speaking country speaks with a full american accent!! its quite absurd to hear but makes me laugh every time we webcam lol

It's not absurd, it is the accent loads of kids use after an International education.

BertieBotts Wed 05-Dec-12 18:49:38

DP moved to Germany a few months ago. When I've visited I've been fascinated by how well his friends can speak English (where German is their first language) or German where English is. I find it weird and quite surreal to think that when me and DS move out there I'll be able to speak German eventually.

I think it's fascinating. It's such a shame that we don't learn other languages here.

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