Most People Speak One Language

Steve K   Saturday, September 04, 2004, 15:17 GMT
Learning another language is its own reward. Many people in North America would like to lean another language but they think it is too difficult, that they cannot do it. They way languages are taught is largely responsible for this perception.

It is time for a different approach to language learning which allows learners to choose their own content and learn from it effectively and enjoyably. The decision to learn another language is cultural for most English speakers in North Amercia, outside of Eastern Canada and Miami maybe.
Sanja   Sunday, September 05, 2004, 15:56 GMT
I don't see why learning a foreign language would be more difficult for English speakers than for the others. I think they don't do it because they don't have to. An average European is bilingual and a lot of people speak even 3 or 4 foreign languages. This is a proof that it can't be that hard. Americans and other native English speakers would also learn foreign languages if they had to and if they were expected to.
As a matter of fact, I saw a movie on TV last night, it was about exchange students from France and America and I noticed something very typical: When a French student went to America, she spoke English and everyone spoke English to her. But when an American student went to France, guess what? She spoke English and all those French people spoke English to her. LOL :)
Random Chappie   Monday, September 06, 2004, 04:35 GMT
Gah! Are French courses in the US any more difficult than English courses in France? I don't think so.
Easterner   Monday, September 06, 2004, 08:22 GMT

As I said at one of the other threads, I think people who speak just their own language (English or any other) are much poorer with respect to tolerance and adaptability than those who are bi- or multilingual. My experience is similar to yours: most English-speaking persons who come to Hungary take it for granted that everybody speaks English to them, though I know some who have learnt Hungarian, but in that case they usually have a Hungarian spouse (and there are some really refreshing exceptions, I have to admit). And another poster has said it's much the same with British people in Spain - they even insist on the same way of life they had in England, with pubs, golf, cricket and everything.

Also, for most non-English speakers it is more normal to speak English than it is for English speakers to speak another language - this is purely an issue of adaptability as well. So when you go to another country, you accept that you have to adapt to its culture, while with some English speakers it's the other way round. I can partly understand that: there's no need for them to learn the local language because they can get on perfectly well with English. So I guess one way of overcoming this is to be taken on a survival trip (e.g. to some remote place in the mountains where there's no chance that people will speak English) and depend on your knowledge of the local language for catering for your needs. I wonder how many hard-bound monolingual speakers would manage that. But you are willing to do a lot of things when it's about your life - even learning to speak another language. LOL :)
nic   Monday, September 06, 2004, 10:03 GMT
Random Chappie,

Well if you compare the % of americans who speak french and the % of french who speak english, + the quality of french spoken by americans. French lessons in USA are non existant
Sanja   Monday, September 06, 2004, 15:01 GMT
Damian   Monday, September 06, 2004, 18:23 GMT
<<French lessons in USA are non existant>>

I would not be surprised if you are correct with that you have proof of that?.......I mean at medium or secondary school level, or whatever they call pre University education in the USA. I have no idea of their grading system.....they refer to University as school as well, I think. Perhaps some Americans in here would confirm whether French IS taught at secondary school level in ANY of the American States...such as those bordering French speaking Canada? Or down in Louisiana eg?

btw nic....... spelling tip.......existEnt! :-) Don't worry, it's high on the list of mis-spelt words by native English speakers.

Sanja told us about the US/France student exchange.... I personally know of two UK/France exchanges and to be fair the Brits spoke mostly French with the local people as they were very keen on improving their French language skills. It would be nice to think that that was the rule rather than the exception but I have my doubts.
Random Chappie   Monday, September 06, 2004, 19:07 GMT
Hello, Damian,

Here's a direct answer to your question:
Yes, French is taught at secondary school level in ALL of the American states and is the second most popular foreign language in the US.

Here's a response in more depth:
I asked one of my coworkers about French in American high schools. He told me that here in Northern California, French is offered as a second language in almost all schools, and that in order to gain admittance into one of California's public universities, one must study a second language, usually Spanish or French, for at least two years. But are two years enough? Certainly not. And are there any assessment or qualification requirements for the foreign language? No. Most pupils fulfil the obligatory two years, then forget the language completely.
Random Chappie   Monday, September 06, 2004, 19:15 GMT
School types and year levels in Northern California:

Nursery/Pre-School= Age 5 and below.
Kindergarten= Ages 5-6.
Elementary School= Grades 1-5= Ages 6-11.
Middle School= Grades 6-8= Ages 11-14.
High School= Grades 9-12= Ages 14-18.
Two-year college OR Four-year university.

If you say "grading system" in the US, people will assume that you're referring to their marking system:
Coursework= A (Excellent Work), B (Good), C (Average), D (Poor), or F (Failing).
Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs)= 200 (lowest) through 800 (highest).
Steve K   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 00:08 GMT
I believe in learning languages and I love doing it. But let's be honest and stop beating up on English speakers. When you live on an English speaking continent of 300 million people you have to motivated by the culture to learn, because you really do not need the language (except for French in parts of Canada or Spanish in parts of the US, and there the rate of bilingualism is higher).

How may people in Europe are motivated by culture in their language learning. How many people study Hungarian, Basque, Romanian, Indonesian, Hindi, Finnish. Answer....... not many. They study languages they need, or which have prestige in their societies, English, or other major European languages.

No problemo, close enough.
Ed   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 01:33 GMT
French IS taught in schools around the US but not as much as Spanish.
Random Chappie   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 03:02 GMT
...Well, still more than German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Greek, and Latin combined!
Damian   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 07:30 GMT
Random: thanks very much for the information....very informative. I am glad that foreign language learning is alive and reasonably well in the USA. I did not really believe it was non existent. I reckon the situation in foreign language learning (outside schools) is exactly the same in the US as it is here in the UK....pretty dire. The penalty of having English as the native promotes laziness and apathy.....a topic much discussed in this forum. In the European context, the British are far and away the worst linguists and worse, we seem to take pride in it!

Thanks for explaining the US grading system.....I was puzzled listening to the US students saying things like "I knew that in sixth grade" and stuff like that.
Damian   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 07:57 GMT
Proper accent:

<<could you tell us which accent is proper?>>

I could never answer that one. PA, but I think I know why you asked that one. There is no such thing as a "proper accent"...each accent has it's place. All I meant in my posting was not really about accent as such, more about developing an acceptable standard of language speaking. By that I mean if people migrate to southern California they should at least improve their English language skills to meet the standards of their adopted home area.

I agree with you, it has to be difficult, but if you make the choice to move to a new environment, you have to adapt accordingly. If anyone has lived in California for a long time and has still not made any effort to speak the official language of the area to an acceptable level then that is not too good, is it?
Sanja   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 10:26 GMT
Random Chappie wrote: "Coursework= A (Excellent Work), B (Good), C (Average), D (Poor), or F (Failing)."

I thought there was "E" as well. (?)