Language skills

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Tony.Williams
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Language skills

Post by Tony.Williams »

I have just noticed the following item of information, posted in this article about the need for Brits to learn foreign languages: https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/brexit ... in-7819232
According to a European Commission survey, the UK trailed a dismal last in a ranking of EU member states for the ability of 15- to 30-year-olds to speak and write in two or more languages. Denmark came top with 99%, the UK could only manage 32%. Second last was Hungary with 71%.
Eh? What? Where are all these British linguists? I would have confidently predicted a result of well under 10%. Unless, of course, their definition of "speak and write" merely covers a few basic words and phrases, like "Je ne comprends pas".
Matt
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Re: Language skills

Post by Matt »

It's 15 to 30 year olds though. Britain has become far more multicultural than when I was a kid. Around 10% in my kids' primary school speak English as a second language.
Tony.Williams
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Re: Language skills

Post by Tony.Williams »

Ah yes, good point. The article is of course concerned with the ability of Brits to participate in business in foreign countries such as our nearest neighbours in the EU.
chaggle
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Re: Language skills

Post by chaggle »

So - which language are we supposed to learn to further our - and the nation's - fortunes?

I ask because those foreign chappies don't have a choice to make - It's English every time.

In fact - most of them converse in English between each other half the time.

If we learn Spanish it won't help us much in Japan - nor Finnish in Brazil.

So which one (or even three or five) languages do we learn which gives us anywhere near the same advantages as them learning just one?
Don't blame me - I voted remain :con
Tony.Williams
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Re: Language skills

Post by Tony.Williams »

chaggle wrote: Fri Mar 19, 2021 4:13 pm
So which one (or even three or five) languages do we learn which gives us anywhere near the same advantages as them learning just one?
That is exactly the reason (well, along with laziness) why I have personally never seen any point in learning another language. I used to visit various parts of Europe on at least an annual basis for work and holidays, but would have to have learned several different languages to tick all the boxes. But then, the events I attended were always in English, and I can only recall a couple of occasions when I experienced minor difficulties through not knowing the local lingo. The cost/benefit analysis just didn't stack up.

However, I can see that if you wanted to drum up trade in a foreign country, it could be a significant social and psychological advantage to speak the local language, even if the people you meet all know English - it seems rather arrogant to expect them to.
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bindeweede
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Re: Language skills

Post by bindeweede »

This is a fascinating topic. Should a UK business man who wants to trade with China learn Mandarin, the most common language in the world? The trouble is, "depending on the region, Chinese people also speak Wu, Hunanese, Jiangxinese, Hakka, Yue (including Cantonese-Taishanese), Ping, Shaojiang, Min, and many other languages."

From the same source.
Classifying these Chinese languages as dialects or languages is a contested topic. They are often classified as dialects, but they have their own vocabulary and grammar systems. These different rules make them mutually unintelligible. A Cantonese speaker and a Min speaker will not be able to communicate with each other. Similarly, a Hakka speaker will not be able to understand Hunanese, and so on. Given these major differences, they could be designated as languages.
https://www.thoughtco.com/chinese-language-2279455

One standard, international language makes sense to me. Fortunately, for those of us who never got beyond schoolboy French, we speak and read it here.
Matt
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Re: Language skills

Post by Matt »

It's suggested that learning a second language has benefits beyond allowing you to communicate with foreigners.
https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/blo ... o-minutes/
I could be that being born into a language that's used as a lingua franca is could result in less empathy, less imagination or dull our intellect in old age.
Wouldn't it be ironic if the international adoption of our language were partly responsible for the British exceptionalism and isolationism that lead to Brexit.
chaggle
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Re: Language skills

Post by chaggle »

Quite agree - those who speak more than one language are altogether more imaginative, empathetic and intellectual.

Incidentally I am reasonably proficient in French and approaching fluent in Spanish.
Don't blame me - I voted remain :con
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