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.

Booboostoo Fri 07-Dec-12 11:05:58

I am not really sure but I think there are different methods for learning a language. Some focus on memorization, some on learning grammar/syntax, some on listening and repeating, some on immersion in the language, etc. I suppose the only thing to do is to try a method and see if it works for you.

When I lived in the UK (admittedly two years ago before the worst of the crisis hit) my local council offered free language lessons in popular languages, e.g. French, Spanish, so that might be an idea.

Alternatively the Open University may offer courses at a reasonable rate, or if you have a University near you look in the language department for students who are offering tutoring services (they may charge a more reasonable rate than language schools).

riverboat Thu 06-Dec-12 07:20:59

LeBFG - I know what you mean, before I moved to France I thought it would feel like having magical powers being able to speak fluently in French. The reality is nothing like that! It's definitely been a hard slog for me, sometimes depressing and unrewarding. Like maybe finally you dare to tell yourself 'yeah, I think I've got it now, I'll be able to handle anything in French from now on' - then you spend a night out in a noisy bar/restaurant in a group of native speakers who are talking nineteen to the dozen, conversation trails splitting and mixing every which way, everyone laughing at jokes you didn't catch or didn't understand...you realise you can't just relax and enjoy the evening, you have to really WORK to follow and get something out of it. I consider myself fluent in French in some ways, but in others I feel I will never be as comfortable in French as in English. I feel really happy with how far I've come but there's nothing cool or magic about it in reality! No pain, no gain has definitely been true for me...

LeBFG Wed 05-Dec-12 20:15:12

It's a bit odd - I was always like you OP. I knew loads of Europeans with language skills in multiple languages and always felt duff in comparison. Now I do speak another language (after living in the country) I don't actually feel particularly 'accomplished'. It's a skill gained from hard work and interacting with people steming from a need-to-learn, rather than just pleasure/natural talent iyswim. Now I realise it was also the same for most of my old friends.

You think things will change because you speak another language but it doesn't. People are just similar wherever you go - people you like/don't like/get on your nerves.

I guess there is the politeness aspect however. I cringe a bit when expats ask 'do you speak english?' - I feel a token effort to say something, even if learnt by heart, goes a very long way.

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Wed 05-Dec-12 20:12:26

I have been on international field trips where the common tongue was International (American) English. The few of us who were English northerners, if we talked rapidly, were told that no-one else could understand what we were saying!

Sorry, apropos of nothing... grin

fraktion Wed 05-Dec-12 19:58:42

It's a great thing to do, even...

fraktion Wed 05-Dec-12 19:57:30

I agree about that need to speak the language being key. It safest thing to do but the only languages I still speak fluently are English and French because I need to use them both on a daily basis.

natation Wed 05-Dec-12 19:56:06

OP I wouldn't feel too bad. I meet English speakers here in Belgium, some of whom have been born and brought up here, they cannot speak either of the 3 national languages fluently as they've been sent to international English schools here! That really is a pity.

GrendelsMum Wed 05-Dec-12 19:46:58

I think the problem is that you need to speak a language well before its actually useful - DH speaks three European languages fluently and it is very well received in business situations where in theory everyone speaks English. I speak GCSE German and it doesn't really get you anywhere more than onto the right train, whereas DH can have a long discussion with the ticket seller about what the cheapest ticket is for the holiday we're planning and work out precisely the thing we need.

IloveJudgeJudy Wed 05-Dec-12 19:25:29

The thing is, for the majority of people, English is the automatic choice to learn as a second language as many people from other countries also speak it. For example, when DH had to go on a course in Holland, there were people from spain, Germany and France there, too. What language did they all communicate it? Obviously, English. I can speak German and French, unfortunately not as fluently as I used to be able to.

Also, if you learn English, there are lots of opportunities to hear it - in pop songs, much of the culture is English/American around the world - TV shows, films, etc. When I lived in Germany it was relatively easy to see an English language film in the original. Very difficult over here to see foreign films at all, and also not unless they're dubbed (apart from on BBC4 now, but the sound is usually pretty low).

Another thing is I have found, like many others, even if you do want to practise your language skills, others want to practise their English on you and do that very rude thing of answering you in English, even if you ask in their language (didn't do that when I was much more fluent, though, luckily). I would never dream of answering someone in their own language if they asked me in English.

I would say, however, that learning another language, at whatever age but preferably the younger the better, is very good for the brain and memory. It's very difficult to get good tuition where I live. I tried to learn Spanish a few years ago but the teacher was duff and uninterested.

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.

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.

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!

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

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 )

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)

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?

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.

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

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....

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

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

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

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

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!

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?

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.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now