There’s nothing more intimidating than trying to learn a new language from scratch. Yeah, some English-speakers go on to study languages like Thai before deciding to book their hotel in Bangkok for a couple weeks and do brilliantly, but my own mediocre French GCSE is pretty much limited to finding the train station and tunefully reciting the alphabet. I’d say that puts me in the vast majority
And yet, people from other countries appear to manage just fine. How DO these pesky foreigners manage it?
Two things: Immersion and Necessity.
Ask any Scandinavian and they will tell you that their TV is dominated by British and American shows. They also start learning English language from a relatively early age. This immersion, at school and at home, provides a great environment for language acquisition. It’s no coincidence that many Scandinavians speak English better than we do.
Not all nationalities are blessed with this kind of ideal learning environment, though. Others have to learn through endless schooling, tests, mistakes and hard work. In many countries, learning English is the key to a better job and a more comfortable life. It’s the language of business. Want to go abroad in the future? Learn English first!
In the English speaking world we’re both blessed and cursed with the adaptation of our language as a lingua franca. We’re never immersed and it’s just not necessary, so generally we don’t get into the mindset to learn a new language.
Of course, when you travel to a country where English isn’t widely spoken, this presents a challenge. As adult travellers to more exotic destinations we’re forced to learn by necessity for the first time. More often than not though, as an English speaker, it’s mostly unnecessary to learn any new language for travel. Someone is bound to speak English and sign language is pretty universal, so why bother, right?
“FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST, POUR FA-VOR-EH!”
That sentence will send a shiver down the spine of any Brit traveller and sums up why you absolutely SHOULD bother if you don’t want to be tarred with the lobster-pink brush.
Yes, arguably it’s tougher for English-speakers to learn a foreign language, and for this reason English-speakers carry a slightly harsh reputation for being lazy with languages. The whole point of travelling is to broaden your horizons though – don’t miss out on a huge part of the experience through laziness!