Foreigners in England/France

Jordi   Sunday, May 23, 2004, 10:01 GMT
In most European countries English is only really useful if you're to work in international trade or the local tourism industry. In Spain, for instance, you'll find 90% of young people learn basic English in High School and some go to private extra classes (3 to 5 hours per week) to improve their English skills. There is also an Official School of Languages in most important cities, which gives free public classes and where English is the most widely demanded language but other people will take French, German, Italian, Russian or even the Spanish national languages such as Catalan, Basque or Galician. Some university graduates will spend a year in Great Britain, Ireland or even the US in special programmes.
Nevertheless, fluent English is rare amongst Spanish nationals if you consider 40 million people live in this country and that English fluency would hardly be more than 1% of the total population. Many of the younger people speak basic to intermediate levels. English isn't necessary at all to lead a full life or professional career in any European country where English is not native. It just gives you more opportunities and nobody --unless a trained translator, interpreter, international secretary or such-- is expected to speak or write top level English. I don't think English will ever replace European languages in their own countries. Our tradition, and the knowledge that our cultural heritage is very high above, will prevent this from happening. Although I'm a native English speaker (I learnt the language as a child in Australia and came back to Spain in my teens and I'm a trained linguist at University) I speak Catalan with my wife and two young children. I've made it a point they learnt English and French (they obviously speak fluent Catalan and Spanish) since they were five years old but I never would expect them to replace their mother Catalan tongue for any other. They could become very fluent if they moved to an English or Frech.-speaking country since they learnt the languages from a very early age but they are an exception and not the rule.
Damian   Sunday, May 23, 2004, 13:08 GMT
Jordi: I think that was a fantastic posting from you. Heaven forbid that English EVER replaces any national or regional language anywhere in the world. I think the death or decline of any language is a terrible thing and I am happy to think it will never happen. It would be like people themselves dying. Maybe English is now the language of commerce and communication in many parts of the world but communities must speak their own tongues together, as in Spain which is a good case in point with the distinct regional differences there. I love Spain and think it is a fascinating country with a great culture. So many British people go to live in Spain but make absolutely no effort to integrate with the local people or learn a single word of the lamnguage, which is SO sad.

Even within the UK it is important to maintain the individual cultures and languages apart from the main one - English. Welsh for instance is being vigorously kept alive and it is still the first language of a sizeable minority in some parts of Wales. It is actually one of the world's oldest languages.

Efforts are made to keep Gaelic alive in parts of Scotland, and even in Cornwall there is a group of people who are trying to encourage the use of another ancient Celtic language - Cornish. The last native speaker of Cornish who knew not a word of English died in the late 18th century. If you go down to Cornwall you see the Cornish flag flying everywhere and although Cornwall is a part of England, a lot of Cornish people like to think there are "independent" and when they cross over into Devon next door they are leaving Cornwall and entering England!

I love differences and variety as long as we all get along together!
Nic   Monday, May 24, 2004, 13:54 GMT
Differences and variety are a good and an interesting thing but it's important to take. What i mean is for example Le Pen who is breton and started his political career about that subject.

I was walikng in the rue du faubourg saint Antoine in Paris there are 2 years when i saw some basques who revendicated the fact they were basques. They were not friendly with people and they were singing provocating songs. It was like if they were looking for troubles with people. Why? who knows....
Jordi   Monday, May 24, 2004, 16:07 GMT
Is La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem, a provocating song? I found this interesting translation in the Internet:

La Marseillaise - English lyrics
Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

To arms citizens Form your battalions
March, march
Let impure blood
Water our furrows

What do they want this horde of slaves
Of traitors and conspiratorial kings?
For whom these vile chains
These long-prepared irons?
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What methods must be taken?
It is us they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!

What! These foreign cohorts!
They would make laws in our courts!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would cut down our warrior sons
Good Lord! By chained hands
Our brow would yield under the yoke
The vile despots would have themselves be
The masters of destiny

Tremble, tyrants and traitors
The shame of all good men
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will receive their just reward
Against you we are all soldiers
If they fall, our young heros
France will bear new ones
Ready to join the fight against you

Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors
Bear or hold back your blows
Spare these sad victims
That they regret taking up arms against us
But not these bloody despots
These accomplices of Bouillé
All these tigers who pitilessly
Ripped out their mothers' wombs

We shall enter into the pit
When our elders will no longer be there
There we shall find their ashes
And the mark of their virtues
We are much less jealous of surviving them
Than of sharing their coffins
We shall have the sublime pride
Of avenging or joining them

Drive on sacred patriotism
Support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished liberty
Join the struggle with your defenders
Under our flags, let victory
Hurry to your manly tone
So that in death your enemies
See your triumph and our glory!

Send your comments to
Paul   Monday, May 24, 2004, 17:34 GMT
Obviously, English speakers are not interested in supplanting the other world languages. English has one of the largest stocks of words, because it persists in borrowing foreign words, especially from French and Latin.
But because of strong nationalistic feelings, the world is still a dangerous place. There is a place for a simple auxillary language, that people would use in other countries. Latin, Spanish and French used to be at different times the Lingua Franca of educated people travelling around Europe and the New World (Western Civilization). English seems to be taking on that role in our time.
If people can't get around, can't communicate across national boundaries, can live and work peacefully in each others countries, our Western civilization will collapse or disintegrate in a thousand fragments.

Are you part of the problem, or are you part of the solution?
Oliver   Monday, May 24, 2004, 17:36 GMT
Jordi at least seems part of the solution. The Basque separtists are part of the problem.
Jordi   Monday, May 24, 2004, 19:52 GMT
Thank you Oliver for your kind words. I think that all educated people should be able to speak not two but several languages. This is what I learnt from my parents and that is what I teach my children. It's an easy task if you start from an early age and investment is really low if you only think in the benefits that arise from knowing other lands, languages and cultures. Think in how many wars could be stopped and how trade would be enhanced and how the brain would evolve should we get to know and respect our neighbours much better.
This said, no educated person can be expected to shut up if his culture and language is under threat by "worldwide" auxilliary languages. And that goes for the struggle of Basques, Catalans or Bretons or even Amerindian languages or any others that are as complex or rich as others. I can assure you that all languages have all the words they need and that all can accept neologisms and specific terms.
It is one thing for people to be able to communicate and another quite different is the feeling one gets from a deep inherited knowledge of a land that has been fashioned throughout the centuries by its own language. Furthermore, citizens from smaller nations and languages tend to speak more languages than people from bigger ones. It is one thing to have an auxilliary language and it could be English, French, Spanish or Chinese for that matter. Another thing is to be convinced, as a native speaker of a worldwide auxilliary language, that you don't need to master other languages and to leave the effort to the rest of the uncivilised world. All English-speaking people should also master a second and third language because, otherwise, that would leave them all the more ignorant than the rest. If a farmer in Missouri doesn't need a foreign language I can assure you a Catalan farmer doesn't either.
It is one thing to make yourself understood in English at the bank, corporation meeting or reception desk when you're abroad or living in a foreign land and another, quite different, to expect the locals to speak in your language when they invite you to their place, a place where you have chosen to live not to colonise. Remember the words: "when in Rome do as Romans do."
I beg your pardon for such a long posting but I hope that my feelings will have passed conveniently through. After all, we don't know each other except for our words.
Damian   Monday, May 24, 2004, 20:44 GMT
Nic: As you know the Bretons are linked to other Celtic groups in the UK and they all clamour for "separation and independence" but this is just a pipe dream and will never happen. As I said in my previous posting I would not like to see their individual culture and language die out. Do the Bretons have political representation, like the Welsh have Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalist Party) and the Scots have the Scottish National Party? If the Bretons march through Paris and yell and sing political slogans it does not have much effect nationally, any more than if the Welsh and Scots did the same in London. They just cause traffic disruption and a bit of overtime for the police. LOL
Damian   Monday, May 24, 2004, 20:46 GMT
oops Nic......I guess I should have said Basques instead of Bretons!!! Sorry! Anyway, my question still the BRETONS have a political party of their own?
tony   Tuesday, May 25, 2004, 01:48 GMT
I just turned 14 and I am taking french in highschool which is in about 4 months will I still have a chance of losing my american accent and gain a descent french accent if I practice and study my french everyday for a whole lot. Will I be able to speak French well if I also practice it everyday even though I am 14 and I am jsut starting french in about 4 months?
nic   Tuesday, May 25, 2004, 14:29 GMT


About the bretons, they are a few to revendicate an independance. I don’t know any precise %, in fact I just know 1 story about thm. It’s about Breton guy who used a bomb in a Mc Donald. Most of the Bretons today don’t care about an eventual independence. Of course manu of them are proud to be Bretons, the same for auvergnats, Savoyards, provençaux …. Every people who were not at 1st really French

About the basques, the thing is different, as you know some of them are spanish and the others are French. The Spanish basques are more violent. In fact many of them try to destabilize the French gov nowadays. The French ones are (or seem) to be different with the Spanish ones because they don’t do any terrorism act. They just try to keep their language, culture alive.

I think we can explain why the Spanish basques are more violent than the French ones : the explanation must be Franco.
Paul   Tuesday, May 25, 2004, 14:37 GMT
I agree that an educated people should be able to read, and write in another language. It would be ideal if he could make himself understood in another language (speak & understand spoken words), preferably more than one.
Unfortunately, there are many people who do not have the ability to learn a second language after the age of 8.
I live in Canada, and we are the new home to many immigrants and refugees. I will tell you some of these adult refugees with the best will in the world and after many years are unable to communicate in English or French.
Ideally, parents should interact with their children in another language.
And for people with little language learning skill, that extra language should be one of the worldwide auxilliary languages. Because any of us may have to leave our home and live in a foreign land and maybe even go from there to another, quite different land. You can not expect the local people to know your language when they invite you to their home. When you are in a place where you have chosen to live not to colonise, you should try and fit in, even if it takes more than one generation.
But one way to fit in is to use the standard language of the country.
If I as an English speaker go to Rome, I would learn Italian or Latin, not Albanian, EMILIANO, Basque, PROVENÇAL, French, Catalan, FRIULIAN, Lombard, PIEMONTESE, NEAPOLITAN or SICILIAN.
Remember the words: "when in Rome do as Romans do."

I believe one of the best investment we can make is in the education of our children. The cost is really low if you only think in the benefits that arise from knowing other lands, languages and cultures. Think in how many wars could be stopped and how trade would be enhanced if we get to know and respect and communicate with our neighbours much better.

I do not know how culture and language can be under threat by "worldwide" auxilliary languages.
Unless you have language police that go into the home and school and take the children away from their parents for not educating them in the proper language.
Sadly, such things did happen in Canada against the Native people, but now we know better.

It is one thing for people to be able to communicate and another quite different is the feeling one gets from a deep inherited knowledge of a land that has been fashioned throughout the centuries by its own language.

It is one thing to have an auxilliary language and it could be English, French, Spanish or Chinese for that matter.

You said, "Another thing is to be convinced, as a native speaker of a worldwide auxilliary language, that you don't need to master other languages and to leave the effort to the rest of the uncivilised world."

I do not think English-speaking people are convinced that they do not need to learn other languages, but instead just find it difficult to develop those alternate language skills, given the lack of contact with Non-English speakers. Especially in the United States.

I hear George Bush Junior is Bilingual. He can speak Spanish, very well.
And he is not a noted internationalist. Comments?

Regards, Paul V.
Jordi   Tuesday, May 25, 2004, 21:41 GMT
Exposure to foreign languages can be as easy or difficult as one wishes. It would be nice for French or Spanish people to be greeted in their language at reception desks or banking corporations whilst on holiday in the States or Canada. Many of us travel and spend our money and the US and Canada have huge stands in European tourist trade shows. You do happen to have many Europeans visiting North America. After all, isn't that what we do for the English-speaking peoples of the world who visit us?
As far as the language one must master when living in a city, I would encourage learning the language of that city or historical country. French in Montreal and English in Toronto, for instance. Or Spanish in Madrid and Catalan in Barcelona. Catalan happens to be the Official Language of the Catalan Countries alongside Spanish. When two languages belong to be same group (both Catalan and Spanish are Romance languages) there is no reason why you can't master both after a few years in a place where both languages are widely spoken. You can even learn Italian if you then decide to move there. If you come as a tourist it's a different story and even English will suffice.
And I would be very careful about mixing dialects of a language with prestigious official historical languages. Catalan and Basque are official languages in Spain. As far as George Bush Jr. is concerned his Spanish is as good or as bad as the English of many of the Canadians migrants you mention, who would greatly improve if they learnt their short public speech by heart and had a coach when campaigning in places with strong Hispanisc minorities. The fact is he's got College Education and your Canadian migrants don't and he, of course, does come from a place called Texas where Spanish was spoken a few centuries before English arrived.
Anyway, hundreds of thousands of English people from good ol' mother England visit Spain every year and do not learn a word of Spanish or Catalan. Many of them don't even realise two different languages are spoken around them.
World auxilliary languages, as you call them, are a threat to other languages that are spoken in territories which, through right of conquest, they consider their own, including the human beings who live there.
Maybe the Basque and Catalan lanauges are much more alive on the Spanish side of the border than on the French one. One should ask himself why this is thus. It doesn't say much about how well France has treated its own National tongues considered vulgar "patois" on one side of the border and taught in schools on the other.
Jordi   Tuesday, May 25, 2004, 21:44 GMT
typos at least include "languages" and "Hispanic"
nic   Wednesday, May 26, 2004, 07:29 GMT

How is it possible G.W Bush speaks spanish very well and is able to say "Good morning mister president of the spanish Republic". Can you believe it?!

It shows how ignorant he is, when i heard that story i have laughed a lot.