Monday, 1 June 2015
There's still a general belief that there's no need to learn other languages because, after all, English is spoken so widely that wherever we go we can usually get by with our mother tongue. Why go to all that effort to learn another language that we probably won't speak very well anyway?
People from other countries, who often speak several languages fluently, are commonly astonished at the British inability to do the same. For one thing, their linguistic versatility makes them more employable while our ignorance makes us less so. And they can readily move to another country in search of a better job or lifestyle.
But language-learning is getting a lower and lower priority in British schools. It's not seen as an essential skill but as something fairly unimportant. And as far as I know, bilingual schools, where pupils have to speak a foreign language while they're in school, don't exist at all.
The language teaching was so bad at my teenage boarding school that after ten years of French lessons (I started at age eight), I failed my French A Level. It was only many years later, after a holiday in Italy, that I got the urge to learn Italian and now know the language quite well. I'm nowhere near fluent though.
I've met quite a few people from abroad who speak several languages perfectly and it pains me that their schools are so much better at the job than ours - contrary to our politicians' claims about the excellence of British schooling.
I would love to go to Italy or Spain or Germany and do the locals the courtesy of conversing in their own language fluently and adeptly, without expecting them to have learnt mine. But that's not going to happen any time soon.
É una situazione molto ridicola, molto assurda.