Travelling Pet Peeves: No 4

Before we even get into the atrocities of colonisation, etc. there is a much more selfish reason that I resent my English heritage.

The fact that English is the ‘international’ language.

I know, I should be celebrating how lucky I am that I can travel to so many places, without the fear of being unable to communicate with anyone, but equally we have no single language of which to learn and so, despite trying desperately, in so many places we look ignorant and we can never learn enough.

Likewise, whilst, in Europe, if not the majority of the world, there is an emphasis on the importance of learning an additional language that is completely lost in English speaking countries. There seems to be this sense of entitlement and superiority that comes as a consequence of being in such a lucky position that filters down to everyone in one way or another.

As you’ll have seen from an earlier post, over the years I’ve spent five years learning French at high school, a few casual years trying to learn some Spanish, and now I’m onto German, which I’ve already tried and failed at once in high-school.

I’ve never got beyond the point of freaking out when someone starts speaking fluently to me in another language. Perhaps this is because of my anxiety, perhaps it’s because I’ve never become competent enough but I know that whenever I’ve said ‘un poquito’ when asked ‘hablas espanol?’, I’ve never really got much further!

I’m worried I’m coming across as ungrateful- I’m honestly not. I am so, so thankful for the ease that I enjoy. I just wish the schools, parents and society as a whole in the UK put more emphasis on learning a second (or third or fourth…) language.

The difference learning from being a toddler must make, compared to what we have (waiting until early teens, then spending only a couple of hours per week on, for only a couple of years and then having the option to drop) must be exponential, as I genuinely feel that by this time it’s that bit too late, and at nearly thirty I feel like I have even less chance of re-training my brain!

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One thought on “Travelling Pet Peeves: No 4

  1. I understand how you feel, and it frustrates me as an American living in Spain that I am fluent in Spanish and somewhat fluent in Catalán, yet they think I don’t even know “hola” so many times because I’m a native English speake.. I love learning languages!

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