A Conversation for Talking Point: Learning Languages
Wand'rin star Started conversation Jul 2, 2007
I have been teaching English as a foreign language since 1965. I can speak and read French and German well. Because of six years of Latin at school I can understand and make myself understood in Spanish and Italian. I can operate in a couple of African languages,also Putonghua and Shanghainese. There's also a smattering of Polish and Bulgarian
The point is that anything other than English is now for my own amusement. When I started 40 years ago, both French and German were necessary to get as far as Switzerland. A female colleague cycled home from HK to England a few years ago with beginners' Putonghua and English only. For historical and economic reasons the rest of the world wants a competent English speaker to speak English to them.
So, if you have had the good fortune to be born a native English speaker, learn the grammar properly and you will never be out of a job.
Anywhere that you travel, make an effort to learn the local ways of asking for things and learn some songs, especially drinking songs. Be impressed by the ten year olds you meet who can speak four languages; speculate on etymology on the British English thread;play word games in as many languages as you can.
Never shout at, or patronise, anyone who doesn't understand you. Keep making connections between words and between people, but don't feel overwhelming guilt if foreign languages remain foreign. You can get round the world on English.
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