Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.
In this issue
- This week: English Next
- Virtual Snacks
- Bizarre Searches
- Quotation and joke
You may have seen in the news that the British Council have just released a report, English Next, on the position of the English language in the world. The report, by language researcher David Graddol, contains some startling conclusions for those who contend that since the rest of the world increasingly speaks English, there’s no need for Britons to make much effort to learn to “speak foreign”.
Anyone who’s travelled abroad for more than a few years will probably be aware that many more people worldwide seem to speak English. At the very least, the English language is more in evidence on street furniture such as road signs, advertisements and business premises namesigns. English has established itself as the language of commerce, and of diplomacy – bumping out French in the process, much to the chagrin of the French. (In fact, French is becoming more and more irrelevant for international use, except in parts of Africa.)
Certainly around here there’s very little incentive to learn Thai. Most of the time the Thai shopkeepers, bar staff and public office workers speak enough English for us to be able to get by. (I’ve probably learnt more German than Thai in the last eighteen months.)
However, Brits can’t afford to sit back, relax, and let others do all the hard work when it comes to language learning. Graddol’s research suggests that other languages are on the rise in the world of commerce and information exchange, notably Mandarin (which is supplanting other Chinese dialects throughout China), Spanish (with the large influx of Spanish speakers into the United States) and Arabic (where the rise of Al-Jazeera as a major news source has shown that genuinely international communication doesn’t necessarily have to be conducted in the default language of English).
All this means that businesses wanting to trade internationally – and there are more and more of these – may look for competence in these other languages when searching for new recruits in the future. Even within the EU, if a company’s looking for a recruit to work internationally it’s likely to favour a candidate who can speak English and another language besides. And the fact is that they’re more likely to find a native speaker of another language who can speak English to an acceptable level, than they are to find a Briton who can speak even French or German to that same level. In short, monolingual Britons may suffer in a multilingual workplace.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. A recent Eurobarometer survey suggests that 48% of the British population agree that everyone in the EU should be able to speak at least two languages besides their mother tongue. Just under half doesn’t sound that impressive – after all, more than 70% of Poles and Greeks agree with the same proposition – but it’s better than either Germany or France, where just 36% and 31% respectively think it’s worth the bother.
Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us about it?
English Next (2006): at 132 pages it’s not a quick read but well worth the effort.
British Council: English Next
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Till next time…
British Expat Magazine
“English? Who needs that? I’m never going to England!”
– Homer Simpson
An African chieftain flew to the United Kingdom to visit the Prime Minister. When he arrived at the airport, a host of reporters and television camera crew met him. One of the reporters asked the chief if he had a comfortable flight. The chief made a series of weird noises….”screech, scratch, honk, buzz, whistle, z-z-z-z-“…and then added in perfect English, “Yes, I had a very nice flight.”
Another reporter asked, “Chief, do you plan to visit the House of Commons while you’re in the area?
The chief made the same noises…”screech, scratch, honk, buzz, whistle, z-z-z-z”…and then said, “Yes, and I also plan to visit Buckingham Palace and Gordon Ramsay’s latest restaurant.”
“Where did you learn to speak such flawless English?” asked the next reporter.
The chief replied, “Screech, scratch, honk, buzz, whistle, z-z-z-z…From the short-wave radio.”