Great Britain Not Serious About Spanish

Steve K   Friday, September 10, 2004, 16:49 GMT
Most immigrants would do what the Brits do in Spain if they did not have an economic necessity to learn the local language. If a British bricklayer in Spain can find enough work and social activity with this countrymen, and has access to TV, newspapers and fequent flights home, he will not bother with Spanish. An Italian, Mexican or Chinese bricklayer in Britain would behave the same way. Most people learn languages because they have to, and prefer to stay within their own group. A few learn languages out of cultural interest. The latter learn much better than the former because their interest is deeper. There is no racism here nor hierarchy of more or less "open-minded" national groups.
Jordi   Friday, September 10, 2004, 17:22 GMT
It could well be.
Damian   Friday, September 10, 2004, 21:29 GMT
Just the thought of living in any kind of ghetto gives me the creeps. I think it's sad when people live their lives in groups, in isolation from the mainstream society around them. I appreciate the point Steve K makes, but I cannot help thinking it's wrong not to participate in the daily life of the country you choose to live in permanently. If that means learning the language to make it possible (essential I guess) then so be it.....amen!

When I've been on the Continent and I heard English accents around me I have to admit that I shied away from them. Funnily enough though, I didn't quite feel the same way when I heard a Scottish accent. I'm not sure I can explain that....
Jordi   Friday, September 10, 2004, 23:54 GMT
There must be something to old Europe that is hard for others to understand. The same thing happens to me when I hear Catalan abroad or when I hear Castilian. I too admit to shying away from Castilian and not feeling quite the same way when I hear Catalan. Yet, there are times when one has heard a friendly voice in a "language unexpected". It doesn't matter then because all that matters, at that time, is that another human being is capable of crossing mountains, whilst reaching out his hands, even though you will only understand each other through signs.
nic   Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 11:37 GMT
When i hear a french voice in a foreign country, i don't react the same as you, i just do as if i was not french. I don't feel especially something when i hear someone who's from the same country.
'Geordie' John   Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 14:53 GMT
I would like to comment on the tone of this debate and especially address myself to my fellow Jordi. I believe you have to be very careful when making statements about the British / English lack of language ability. If we are to believe Jordi then we are arrogant and content in our L2 ignorance. Is that really the case?

In fact most British people are ashamed that other nations think we are incapable of learning L2s. The fact that we recognise there is a problem surely goes in our favour? However I would question Jordi's purely anecdotal assertions.

Answering ancedotes with ancedotes: I am a Geordie (a native of Newcastle Upon Tyne) and I speak quite good Spanish. In fact I speak Spanish at home with my family and my daughter attends a Basque only speaking school. I am not anything special either by the way. All of my British friends and colleagues who have spent any length of time here in the Basque Country speak the local language. They would be jerks not to!

Most British people I come across in Spain in the TEFL world can speak Spanish if they have lived here for at least a year. How can they not? It would be difficult to function in Spain (outside of the tourist areas) if you did not learn Spanish. As it is a myth that 'everyone speaks some English.)

I assume from what you are saying Jordi that whereas the Brits are somehow 'bad at languages' the different peoples of Spain are good learners and their education system is excellent? If that were so why are there so many private language schools in Spain? Most TEFL teachers here could work twice the hours they do because of the demand for English.

Actually the Council of Europe recently reported that the Spanish, along with the Italians are the worst language learners in the EU. Whatever that means!

No, there are deeper and more complex reasons as to why Jordi and many others have this stereotypical view of the Brits and language learning. Most of it has to do with socio,economic and political factors which we could go into later.

But Jordi, we are not as bad as you think. You should get out more and try and meet different types of Brits and not just pensioners and back-packing TEFLERS!

Great Britain has some marvellous universities where students learn the languages of the world to extremely high levels. The BBC World Service is broadcast in many languages. Look at Michael Robinson*! I have never seen a Spanish person presenting a TV show in Britain in English.

*Michael Robinson is an ex-footballer from England who presents Spain's Canal Plus football coverage. (in Spanish of course!)
Damian   Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 15:36 GMT
<<Great Britain has some marvellous universities >>

Cool posting.

I applied to go to Newcastle uni and went for an interview there late 2000....nice setting...even down to cows grazing in that huge field nearby and the city centre just down the road. Cute wee crescent of lovely houses on the way....had a fantastic time that night. Cool city centre and those bridges over the Tyne...great metro system too....did a circular trip to Whitley Bay/Sunderland/Gateshead and back to Central Station. I liked the Georgian style architecture in the city centre and that Grey monument. Geordies are so friendly in the shops and restaurants.

btw: I eventually ended up in Leeds....same difference really.....had three fantastic years there ending this past June.

PS: I have a good friend who lives in geek!

PPS: I think you'll find that Jordi has no links with Tyneside at all!
Jordi   Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 21:42 GMT
Just a few words to apologise to my fellow Geordie. Spaniards go to private English schools from the time they are 6/7 years of age because their parents are aware of their need of international English-language communication. I don't know anybody, either in Spain or GB, who leaves secondary school with a high level of English or Spanish and I have met a few English Spanish-language graduates. I had such a girl-friend years ago and her Spanish improved greatly after a few months. My son (16) and my daughter (14) have been going to such classes, at my expense (€60 per month each), for over 10 years. They also are taking French courses. Our school children are probably the only children in Europe (believe me I travel all over Europe throughout the year) that have to follow such a linguistic regime in such a big scale. That has given lots of jobs to lots of Brits in our country. Some don't even have the right qualifications although I'm luck enough to be able to distinguish.
I congratulate you for blending so well in the local Basque culture. My family moved to Australia when I was 7 years old and, after a year, I could of course speak excellent English. I came back ten years later and I still sound quite native.
The fact is I live on the Mediterranean coast with a very high percentage of English residents in my area. I would say less than 10% of the adult population (35 and over) speak good enough Spanish after five years. For the children it's different of course. Since I work in the tourism and travel industry I know what I'm saying.
I suppose that people who have followed me the past few months (such as Damian, for example) will tell you I'm an anglophile. I, of course, love my Catalan people and culture in a very fond way and I would never dream of speaking Spanish at home although we can all perfectly speak the language outdoors when necessary.
Should English televisions need Spaniards with a perfect command of English I can assure you they would be flooded with petitions. With all the English footballers we've had in the country it's hardly amazing one of the tribe speaks the language well enough. Certainyly not Beckham who's been playing in Spain for more than a season. The fact is I'm happily employed in the tourist trade and very much enjoy my English friends although they often tell me (I suppose it's meant to be a compliment) that I don't sound or look Spanish. Of course I don't I tell them with a chuckle, I'm 100% Catalan and an Aussie at heart!
One of my very best friends is an Englishwoman called Frances, she speaks perfect Catalan and Spanish and she married a local guy. I can assure you she's more an exception than a rule.
Please excuse any typos. I write long messages although I'm always in a great hurry.
PS. I have an English-Spanish translation diploma from the University of Cambridge, a beautiful town. Not all English-university students are scholars (nor all Spanish, needless to say.)
Jordi   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 08:31 GMT
I just thought I would add that "private English schools" or "Academias de inglés" are schools that only teach English language. After their school day young many Spanish children attend classes for 3-5 hrs. per week as an extra activity apart from their usual school day. It's usually between 5pm and 8 pm. since Spaniards have dinner quite late; usually around 9 pm. They have a quick snack at home and away to English school before their usual homework and I've met "native" English teachers who were very good and other quite bad since they had no qualifications. Considering Spaniards pay for these classes it would be easy to give a name to that. You'll find these private schools in almost almost Spanish cities and towns.
There is also an Escuela Oficial de Idiomas (Official School of Languages), which gives you a proficiency diploma after you've passed five full nine months courses. I would say English is chosen by 80% of students followed by French, German, Italian, Russian, Arabic... You can even follow Catalan, Basque or Galician classes. It's a free state run system and you'll find it in all major Spanish cities and many other towns. Hundreds of thousand of Spaniards --you must be 16 at least to be accepted-- follow courses in these classes. According to EU figures Spain is the European country where the number of University graduates who've started late studies --after 25-- is the biggest in Europe through a Open University system (educación a distancia).
There are, of course, free and private Spanish language courses for foreigners. A lot of people do take their time to follow these courses and we have many migrants from African and Eastern European countries attending . As I said previously the Dutch and Scandinavian residents also learn Spanish quite quickly and most take a great interest in local language and culture. Unfortunately the percentage of British residents following these courses, in areas where they are a big minority of ex-pats, is very low although the younger Brits or Brits with a big love affair with Spain are different. We're back to motivation. When we moved to Australia it was almost compulsory for migrant adults to attend English classes. Both my parents did although they were already around 40 and now can speak quite good English as they speak French because we lived in France.
Local Spanish authorities on the Mediterranean coast have received complaints from local British residents because they don't receive council information and tax bills in English. English isn't an official language in Spain and nobody expects to receive information from the London council in another language that is not English. I agree there must be a department to help foreigners in other countries of the world but there is an attitude, which makes many of the British different. I'm closely related to all these facts and I can assure you I've helped many Brits, in all kinds of situations and, more often than not, at no cost whasoever. La amabilidad española es proverbial.
Sanja   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 09:43 GMT
I guess British people (as well as Americans and other native English speakers) take for granted that everyone should communicate with them in English, wherever they go. But the fact that they complain for not receiving bills in English when they live in Spain is really outrageous. I think they have gone too far. If you live in Spain, you can't expect to receive bills and everything in English.
Steve K   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 13:54 GMT
Immigrants in Canada want services in Chinese, Punjabi etc.
Sanja   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 15:46 GMT
That's just crazy.
Damian   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 21:11 GMT

As ever, your postings are enthralling....I enjoy them a great deal.

There must definitely be an age gap in the learning of languages in expats' adoptive in Spain most of them seem to be retired and set in their ways and maybe incapable of absorbing new skills? That may be the reason. (Now I suppose I will get bollocked for saying that by someone. I read in our local paper a while back of a woman of 86 who has just passed an exam in advanced computer studies, or something like that).

I still maintain that too many Brits think that they do not need to learn a foreign language....the mentaility being "everyone speaks (or should speak!) English". Wow! What can you say? Sanja says some of them complain that they receive their restaurant bills actually written in SPANISH! Someone ought to whisper in their ears that they are in Barcelona and not Bournemouth!

It's do seem to be an anglophile. On occasion, I wonder why exactly! LOL

Anglo = England. You know what I'm thinking don't you, Jordi?

Jordi   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 21:37 GMT
Thanks Damian! By Anglophile I mean the language and the cultures in English, which has been adopted by so many Celts, betraying
Auld Lang Syne. Good old Robert Burns! You'll understand Aussies have more to complain about England than Scotland. After all, they were forced to leave their bogs, braes and paddocks for some Terra Australis Incognita. I don't think they'd change gum trees and gorgeous beaches and sheilas right now for those Old World pastures we seem to be so fond of.
Farewell to old England forever
Farewell to my rum culls as well
Farewell to the well known Old Bailey
Where I used for to cut such a swell.