Learning English has become one of the most vital languages to learn (apart from Spanish, Hindi, and Mandarin) for many businesses who want to be international or travellers who want a common language to communicate with each other. But at what cost does it bring to their own languages? This problem is happening throughout many parts of the world. That it’s gotten to the point where many languages have become endangered or extinct as a result.
Many do think that English is destroying their culture by becoming too influential on a global scale. Right now English definitely has a strong influence that many native English speakers have become arrogant over this factor. They have this false mentality that because they speak English that they don’t have to learn other languages. Even though the opposite is more true today. Take for instance: Scandinavia where not only do they still speak their native languages among each without having to switch to English. Except for those Swedes and Danes who don’t even try to understand each other. In which case they have English to fall back on.
But what if you do speak English as your native language?
You will find that you can’t always use that card to benefit you if you have no skills otherwise. Many teach English as a foreign language abroad as an expat and haven’t bothered learning the local language(s) for decades. You can do that but in places like Thailand, Japan, South Korea, etc but you CANNOT do that in places where people are either bi- or multi-lingual where English is good to have but not by itself.
It happens all the time with Anglophones going to places like Scandinavia and not bothering to learn the language while there. The thing is that you’re not going to understand the people around you and this will give them an excuse (believe it or not) to insult you in their language. Or worse you’re denied a job because you’re “Too [insert nationality here]” and ignore to that country’s way of doing business. It can happen even if you do have skills. One of the things that could have prevented you was not dealing with the customers in their language. I mean why hire you if they can hire a bi-lingual (or multi-lingual for that matter) local who is and has the same skill set as you?
That’s why you shouldn’t be too surprised if that happens. It’s probably because they either a) found someone with more skills than you or b) you didn’t bother learning enough about their culture (including their work culture) to be ideal for the job, despite your actual capabilities. That’s why learning their customs and culture is extremely vital. One of the most essential things is that it makes things a lot easier. Whether it’s being able to read signs or conduct major transactions in the new language.
I’ve even heard my fellow Swedes say that they think Swedish is inferior to English and think they should only speak English. But what they fail to realise is that once the language is gone, the culture has a tendency to die along with it. Poof! No more Swedish culture! Obviously if you don’t plan on living in Sweden or Finland or have Swedish-speaking friends or relatives you won’t find Swedish to be very useful. However, if you want to integrate and be apart of Swedish society then you need to speak Swedish.
Why learn other languages?
Because eventually whether English speakers want to face up to this reality or not there’s always going to be a language that has international to replace English. What happens when English is no longer the most influential language in the world? That’s when it becomes more and more important to learn other languages. Especially with all the resources you can find on the internet, the possibilities are now literally endless. Being a monolingual speaker of any language could leave you at a major disadvantage .
I’m seeing it pop almost everywhere where schools are planning on (if they haven’t already done so) integrating language immersion programmes in languages like French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, and even Spanish. My only concern is how they plan on making this consistent as the child progresses through school. Having taken language classes before I know how poorly taught it is by teachers who are natives or fluent speakers. The most extensive flaws are: teaching the target language using one’s language tongue and teaching “grammatically correct” language as opposed to the natural language that’s spoken by natives and not by textbooks.
While there’s nothing wrong with learning grammar it’s not something that should be introduced immediately. Doing that will often discourage the learner into think that they’re “not good at learning languages.” Which brings me on to my next point:
Languages Are More Complex Than Typical School Subjects
In order to become truly effective in learning languages you must use it outside the classroom setting. Otherwise you will forget everything you learned because it was just a class that looked good on your degree. Not to mention that many of those who have the degree in a certain language are probably not as fluent as their degree says they are. I’d even wager that they can’t use it well either. They might have even been declined jobs for the lack of fluency in that language.
That’s why you need to stay motivated and supplement your language learning with things that are relevant to your interests. For example: If you like watching comedy shows then search for “comedy” in the target language and see what you can find to either purchase or watch online. I found many fantastic resources both paid and free that have been essential supplements to the languages I’m learning. The key factor is that the process should be fun and engaging for YOU personally. If it’s not then it’ll be that more more difficult to stay motivated and you probably won’t learn as much.
It can’t be all fun and games right? Unfortunately, you have to do things in a new language that are daunting to say the least in the new language. But if you have motivation to learn that new language then getting through the difficult parts shouldn’t be as intense as it would when you don’t bother making an effort.
Finally, do I think that English is the reason for so many languages to die out? To put it simply: No. Even languages with smaller amounts of speakers are still alive and well. Despite the possibility of only being used within one country by itself.