Why is it that the British, particularly the English, can never learn the language of another country – even those of our close neighbours across the Chanel? Is it because, unlike other nations, our people are totally incompetent brain-wise when it comes to uttering different sounds? Is it because English brains are full up and we can’t remember new words? Is it because the vocabulary size of the English language at many millions of worlds has filled-up all the language area of the brain? Or is it because our voice-boxes and our tongues just can’t cope with the difficulty of the different sounds of another language?
Or is it because we are too bloody lazy?
You see the big problem is that in the past we sailed the World with arms and worships, stealing other peoples countries, robbing them of their treasures, colonising them, destroying their cultures, ruthlessly ruling their peoples, and In doing so we coerced their populations to speak OUR language English – and as far as possible we stopped them speaking their native tongues (except in secret!).
We sent all our convicts (and then our all emigrants) the other side of the World to Australia, so then they spread the English language around that all continent of Australasia (and they destroyed the native Maoris into the bargain in the whole process).
We packed off our supposedly good guys (the Pilgrim Fathers) across the Atlantic to the ‘new land’ of America – they didn’t turn out to be all that nice though, they later killed-off the native Indians, corralled them into so called ‘Reservations’, and then destroyed their way of life. They next turned-on the English, killed our bright redcoat solders, and threw all our tea into Boston Harbour! Did they do any of this to be self sufficient & independent? Of course not, it was to take over from England as the most dominant force in the World – the only ‘superpower’ now. One benefit to us here is that they are more hated than the English (now we have given up all our colonies anyway!). Nonetheless, the consequence is that the English language (Americanised of course!) has been even more widely spread around the World.
Other countries were at the World ‘conquering’ game at the same time as England of course – particularly Spain and France, the other major maritime nations of the time. Therefore the Spanish language was widely spread, and to a less extent French. But English has maintained dominance throughout.
So, as you can understand there is no incentive to we English to learn another language – if we go to another country they have to talk to us in English; if they don’t or can’t, we just shout English at them even louder until they give us what we want!
Oh yes, we in England have made pretences of learning other languages – for 50 years or more we have taught French in our schools (and sometimes Spanish), but not to actually speak it – we have been taught the grammar, a few words, and how to read or write a bit, but NEVER how to communicate in the foreign language – we are too shy you see! Kids leave school with so called language qualifications, and can’t go to France or Spain on holiday and utter a single word in their language to say hello, buy something, or order a meal! How sad is that?
What needs to be done then? ALL such classes need to be conducted in the language to be learnt – for god’s sake that is how all children learn their own language around the World! If you go to another country like say Indonesia and want to learn their language they send you to a city to live with a family for at least a month, where NOBODY speaks English – if you want to eat you soon learn!
What language or languages should actually be learnt by the English in the modern World then?
There is ONLY one candidate ‘Mandarin Chinese!.Why is that? It is because China is the future. China is the largest country in the World. China has the greatest population in the World. China is the greatest growing financial economy in the World. China is the biggest market in the World for the industrial nations. China is a politically different environment (Communist – so NO God!), independent of the rest of the World (particularly America!). China has massive natural resources,. China has unbelievably massive might in military forces terms (including of course nuclear weapons). China is powerful enough, and self sufficient enough to do its own thing – and say ‘sod you’ to the rest of the World. Sounds like a good idea then to be able to at least talk to them? In Chinese of course, because there is no way they will need or want to talk to the World in English. Times have changed you see!
So are we now on the game? You must be joking! We Englanders live in the past – the World is still OUR oyster we think! The Headmaster of a local secondary school here, which proudly boats of their language commitment, some years ago looked aghast when asked if they had any plans to teach Mandarin – oh no, THEY are going to stick in the time warped past of their redundant European languages – French, Spanish, German; so we will end up with another generation of poor linguists, but clever A Level successes and graduates, who will be pointless linguistically in our British World future!
Is there a glimmer of hope? Not really. We have though locally a tiny primary school teaching Mandarin – it is a mystery how that came about, but it has been going on for many years now. It will present a massive opportunity for the few youngsters involved, but how the heck will they ever continue that development as they go through the education system? Bet you do not have a school of any type near you teaching Chinese? You see kids are expert learners – they have to be – so new languages are easy-peasy for them to pick-up (and even switch between!), and they have no worry or embarrassment about getting words wrong or mispronounced (unlike us adults!).
Can any of us do anything to change the situation? Can YOU personally? It is no good all of us just going to English so called Chinese Restaurants of buying their takeaways (however nice you find the food)!
[If you have children at school at whatever level (younger the better!), then ask the Headmaster or Headmistress about introducing Mandarin lessons – your kids will love it (and get one over on their mates!). Or tell the person with a bit more power – your MP – that you think that schools should be more focused on the Chinese language].
Aside: China, area over nine & a half million square kilometres, population about one and a half billion people, the fastest growing & second world’s biggest economy, the largest goods trader, largest army and defence budget.