Brits learning Spanish

Stef   Tuesday, October 05, 2004, 09:12 GMT
Something else to keep in mind...I lived in Lisbon for two years as an English teacher. I took Portuguese lessons and tried to acclimate myself by meeting locals, doing as much as possible to fit in. However, my attempts at speaking the language were embarassing. I'd begin speaking and promptly see a wagging finger in my face correcting my pronunciation; I would say I am learning, and the response would be "Speak English." My practice was usually in my class or with the few friends who would put up with my elementary knowledge of the language. The point is, oftentimes foreigners are trying to learn the languge; locals need to give us a break, too.
Jordi   Tuesday, October 05, 2004, 09:34 GMT
Obviously, over 95% of the Portuguese population doesn't speak English. I read the other day that only 10% of the Germans would be what you call "fluent" in English. There are a lot of half-speakers of English all over the world.
You probably made friends in minority, young or very cultivated circles where people wanted to have "free oral classes" practicing their English with a native (you).
Give yourself a break not speaking English to the locals when overseas (no matter what, since it ends up being easier) .
Steve K   Tuesday, October 05, 2004, 14:27 GMT
Language is about communication. If you speak a language so poorly that communication is awkward, your counterpart will switch to a language that works better.

That is why massive input is so important. Once you have enough vocabulary and a sufficent feel for the language you venture out and confront the natives. Your encounters will, at first, be painful, stressful and often end in defeat. But then you know what to work on and go back to your input activities and work to improve. Eventually you will get there.

How would you react if someone approached you in halting English and you spoke some Portuguese?
Jordi   Tuesday, October 05, 2004, 16:36 GMT
I know what you mean and you are quite correct. In usual situations you would choose the language where there are less communication barriers. Nevertheless, I've seen many such situations around me. It is a matter of social relevance. English is "the" prestige language and anybody wants to brag about "his four sentences in English" even if the English speaker knows "eight sentences in Portuguese." It seems somewhat complicated but it isn't. The English learner is often very eager "to show off" in front of his friends. I'm sure if deeper communication was absolutely necessary they'd even use their High School Latin or Ancient Greek (should that add up).
Easterner   Tuesday, October 05, 2004, 17:36 GMT
When I'm in a foreign country, I prefer to speak the language of that country, as far as I can do that. The only exception so far has been The Netherlands, where practically everybody speaks English (or, alternatively, German). However, my experience suggests that in most countries the natives tend to use English with foreigners, if they can speak it.


Strange, this is the other way round in Hungary most of the time. Even if somebody speaks a language quite well, they are quite reluctant to "show off". Maybe this has to do with the country being largely monolingual... On the other hand, it is also interesting that people who speak a remarkably broken variety of a language are often more eager to show off than good speakers.
Jordi   Tuesday, October 05, 2004, 20:06 GMT
"it is also interesting that people who speak a remarkably broken variety of a language are often more eager to show off than good speakers. "

That is exactly what I meant in situations where the "remarkably broken variety speaker" encounters a native English speaker in his country. In the tourism trade I usually ask my new executive British friends if they prefer Spanish or even Catalan. I feel that is the best way I have to have them feel welcome.
Foo   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 03:52 GMT
I recently went to spain and nobody spoke english at all. The best english i encountered was a few grunted words eg, so on.

so i dont know what you are all on about when you say everyone knows english.
Damian   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 07:45 GMT
<<so i dont know what you are all on about when you say everyone knows english>> must have been up the Edgware Road!
Random Chappie   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 08:03 GMT
A few grunted words are more than what the average Briton can say in Spanish.
Mark twain   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 09:10 GMT
Well i am happy to see that's not only cheese eaters who do not speak english but Corizo eaters too!

well done
Damian   Wednesday, October 06, 2004, 09:33 GMT
<<A few grunted words>>

Wow! as much as that? I've under estimated my fellow countrymen/women.
Sanja   Friday, October 08, 2004, 17:20 GMT
"so i dont know what you are all on about when you say everyone knows english."

I guess it depends on where you go and what kind of people you talk to.