Why are English speakers so lazy about learning?
Why are most English speakers so lazy about learning foreign languages?
I'd thought it's mainly because of Americans' arrogancy; however, I noticed English. Australians and Canadians are not too crazy about learning foreign languages either.
Dutch and Scandinavians speak English as well as their native languages and many of them even speak one more foreign language quite well.
I'm always impressed with their language skills.
Why do you think this is?
They all need English to be at the center of the world. Ninety-nine percent of all knowledge available in the world is available in English. Native speakers of English are already at the center of the world, so there's no need to learn a language unless they need it for work or want to do so just for fun.
It couldn't have anything to do with geography could it? I mean in Europe you can jog over to the next country and speak three different languages within an hour. In the US you can drive for days and still be in an English speaking environment. Nor could it have anyhting to do with lack of opportunities to practice. I speak several European languages fluently, due to my family situation, yet when I visit family in Europe they always want to speak English with me.
But it's probably not any of those things that keeps us from learning languages. It's like you said, we're lazy. But don't forget arrogant. We have the lazy and arrogant genes. In my own case the lazy gene is dominant but the arrogant gene is recessive... though since both of my parents are lazy arrogant Americans also I guess even the recessive gene came out. In fact I can't believe I got up the gumption to write this post or that I deemed your question worthy of comment.
In your next question you might want to ask why the Irish drink so much and why Mexicans steal.
Sparkling wrote: "Dutch and Scandinavians speak English as well as their native languages and many of them even speak one more foreign language quite well."
You answered your own question. If the Dutch and Scandinavians--and just about everyone else--are learning English, what incentive does that give to Anglophones to learn other languages? It has nothing to do with laziness--only motivation. And also extremely poor teaching methods. (School boards apparently don't read antimoon.)
Having said that, I know Americans, British, and Canadians that are among the most spectacular language learners in the world. Again, whether it's the desire to be a polyglot (e.g., Alexander Arguelles: http://www.foreignlanguageexpertise.com/index.html
), or the need for a job, or even to understand one's employees, if the motivation is there, they'll learn. I know Americans and Brits who are fluent in a variety of languages, often not the usual major European ones. (E.g., folks who can speak Mandarin or Japanese or Indonesian or Swahili, etc.)
And by the way, even the situation that Benny described is changing. In many parts of the U.S., it's almost impossible NOT to run into Spanish. I know many people who have become functional in Spanish--and often fluent--because they need to. If the motivation and methods are there, Anglophones will learn.
Another factor may be that E1Lers are spoiled by the extreme simplicity of English grammar, the lack of tones, clicks, pops, or other difficult language features.
When the time comes to learn another language, you normally run into elaborate inflections, tones, clicks/pops or other alien sounds, non-alphabetic writing systems, elaborate inflections, agglutination or polysynthetic word formation, and a whole host of other difficulties that your brain is ill-prepared for. All these difficulties turn off would-be E1L students almost before they get started.
Sometimes arrogance is justified. English REALLY IS the most important language in the world, and there REALLY IS no general reason to learn other languages.
>>Why are most English speakers so lazy about learning foreign languages?
This is outright arrogance already.
>>Nor could it have anyhting to do with lack of opportunities to practice. I speak several European languages fluently, due to my family situation, yet when I visit family in Europe they always want to speak English with me.
If you, the reader, are already a highly educated adult (which is very commonplace, I suppose, in the Anglosphere, even though people [and many Anglophones themselves] say they only know one language), you must at least be able to know what it means to be just an individual, and that you can't have all the freedom even in a country you suppose to be free and let you live happily all your life.
There's no real polyglottery, and no polyglottery to be proud of. I can only speak my native language natively, and you English, and I can also write in English - so, we can exchange ideas fairly easily, period. Even if you don't learn mine, and I yours (very well), it's still perfectly fine until either of us come to the country of the other. But what's the fuss? I'm immediately a foreigner anywhere in Guangdong or Macau or wherever, in the minute that I'm outside my border.
How does English count as only one language? You just can't force others to learn or not to learn something. If I were Anglophone, I, too, might also be living happily, just like me now with at least 2 languages, with only one language instead.
>>Having said that, I know Americans, British, and Canadians that are among the most spectacular language learners in the world.
While non-Anglophone kids excel in their native tongues to beat Anglophone monolinguals, any random Anglophones can beat them, too, when they choose to get any one from them.
Indeed, I find it entirely time-wasting to learn multiple tongues to get the same knowledge. When you have one, an omnipresent one, others would be entirely unnecessary. But the picture isn't as dark. You still have to, at least, learn the whole tongue, or any major parts of it, to be functional and to do anything in the foreign culture.
To put it simply: it's on9 to learn basic maths (Chinese, English, and maths are the three main subjects of every kid like me before) all over again in multiple tongues. General knowledge can put in just any language, and the only point now to learn all those multiple tongues is their unique cultural stuff.
<<which is very commonplace, I suppose, in the Anglosphere, even though people [and many Anglophones themselves] say they only know one language>>
Yes, and I think it is a cultural phenomenon relating to the use of computers in my job. Now almost everyone has a computer but it doesn't stop us from accessing the internet, because we have pretty old servers.
<<How does English count as only one language? >>
I think it comes down to what you consider necessary as a global citizen. I find in my country it is quite difficult to get people to become motivated to learn languages. When I tell them I learn languages they scoff and act incredulous. But the internet is getting more abstract each day and I think it's relevant to all citizens for the new means of communication. The media is fairly biased anyway.
<<Chinese, English, and maths are the three main subjects of every kid like me before>>
Definitely, speaking Finnish has advantages even for monolinguals like myself. I was talking to my cousin in Japan who speaks Finnish but he said he didn't know how to use a telescope so I guess it doesn't matter.
<<There's no real polyglottery, and no polyglottery to be proud of. >>
Finnish polyglots are quite present but you will never find one in real life, the only place you meet them is on the internet, This cultural phenomenon would be like a yearly celebration, like Victory Day. I guess for Japanese it just doesn't make a difference whether I garden or not, because I'm just as comfortable in a garden as in a greenhouse.
<<because we have pretty old servers.>>
Count your blessings, because they don't make servers like they used to.
Here's a question for Sparkling:
Get a survey done on the non-native speakers who are learning English, and ask them why exactly they are learning it. Is it because a) they love the language and want to learn the language for its own sake? or b) for professional, monetary, commercial reasons? Once you get the answer to this question, I trust that will help you answer the question you posed.
Just to be clear, the only reason a native English speaker will want to learn another language is for reason a) above, and that is always a very small percentage of a population.
In general, I agree with you. (And I'd like to see Sparkling do the survey.) Most native English speakers who learn other languages either love a particular language, or languages in general, or are at least enamored of the culture (eg., they love anime and manga, or adore Paris, or like samba, etc.)
However, I do know a lot of Americans, in increasing numbers, who are learning other languages for purely practical reasons, especially Spanish, which they need (or think they need) to talk to customers, employees, students, patients, etc. Other languages, like Chinese at the present time, have learners who think they can use it in business, regardless of whether they like the language or culture.
In a nutshell, native born English speakers have become "lazy" when it comes to learning other Languages - at least, the majority of them have. The general consensus of opinion is that there's really no need to even buckle down and learn another Language simply because our own has become the International Language - very few people on the nearby Continent are unable to understand English, and most speak it well enough to enable us to converse at a satisfactory level, at least as far as we, as travelling Brits, are concerned.
You can more or less be sure that the average person you stop and ask directions from on the streets of most Continental towns and cities, using English, and they will respond in kind, many of them at a high level of competency. I've done just that in places like Prague, Copenhagen and Munich with no problems at all, and as for Amsterdam - well, English is virtually the official second Language there.
Just outside Antequera, in Andalucia, right down in the south of Spain, (we had driven all the way down there from Scotland) my mate and I had problems with our car on a busy motorway, and two coppers immediately came to our aid, and although they were not altogether fluent in English by any stretch of the imagination, and our Spanish was nowhere near good enough for us to talk in that Language, we all got on really well, and I can't say how much we appreciated their helpfulness, friendliness and good humour...and they were both quite hot as well......
It's mostly in France that it can be just a wee bit dodgy finding someone either able, or willing, to talk English, but even then we found the people we met on an everyday basis to be invariably friendly and helpful, and gesture speak really can work wonders. Rural France is fantastic, but I do love Paris very much, but Parisians are not really French people at their best! ;-) Once, in our hotel in Paris, I spoke to the old guy on reception in perfect French and he responded in equally perfect English - I found that to be really deflating. It wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't had such an arrogant attitude about him! In France, the enthusiasm for speaking English is much greater among the younger people, this being a case of "If you can't beat them, join them!" ;-)
Yes, Europe is exciting in that you can drive (or travel by train) through three or four or more countries all in the same day, all with different cultures and Languages, but what else would you expect in the smallest yet most cosmopolitan and diverse Continent on the planet! And everywhere it's a case of "English spoken here!" Thankfully.....
"Why are most English speakers so lazy about learning foreign languages?"
I want to turn the tables on you even though we have admitted that we
Is this kind of question acceptable in Korea?
"I'd thought it's mainly because of Americans' arrogancy; however, I noticed English. Australians and Canadians are not too crazy about learning foreign languages either."
Whoa! Miss Manners?
"Dutch and Scandinavians speak English as well as their native languages and many of them even speak one more foreign language quite well.
I'm always impressed with their language skills."
Don't be TOO impressed- expect this. They have exposure to English-language television programs in many cases from an early age. These languages are very close to English and they start learning English very early on in these areas.
If you get enough language exposure, you may become a polyglot if you are not already one.
<<because we have pretty old servers.>>
I ate at a coffee shop last week and the server was a 65 year old Puerto Rican woman. I think she was the oldest server I've had in a long time. Fortunately I was pretty high so even with her advanced age I found her extremely attractive.
I have this memory of sitting there in the booth trying to eat my food but having trouble focusing on my pancakes because I was zoning in on the server's gold necklace resting on her ample cleavage and on her inch long fuschia acrylic fingernails. Later, after the diner had closed, we dropped some blotter acid together and drove in her car to an abandoned apartment complex on the outskirts of Trenton, NJ. We set up a couple of rusty lawn chairs by the empty swimming pool and made love until the sun came up. Then we spent hours breaking beer bottles against a wall and throwing rocks at the windows over at the old steel mill. When the Trenton police picked us up around 2 PM we were naked. Apparently we had left our clothes back by the swimming pool and I had a nasty sunburn.
I'll probably never see that woman again and I never did find out her name, or if I did I forgot it during the night. I just remember calling her *Chupacabra* while we were making love. Anyway, the moral of the story is I now have a better appreciation for old servers. Old servers may nto be for everyone, but I advise you to give them a try. They go great with blotter acid.