Learning a language

I saw a report on Sky News yesterday about the languages spoken by British people. The most common foreign language was French followed by German and Spanish (can’t remember the order). The report also included a segment about schools starting to teach mandarin which, apparently, is the most spoken language in the world.

The report also said that speaking other languages would become more important after Brexit - seems bizarre to link the two but adds to the newsworthiness (is that a word!?) of the report I imagine. Why do they think that people around the world will refuse to speak English because the UK is no longer in the EU?

Anyway, the attitude to learning another language if you are an English speaker is bound to be different to speakers of other languages. For English speakers there is no obvious choice of language to learn. We generally learn French at school in the UK because it’s the nearest neighbour but most people won’t ever use it. The common world language is English and is the obvious second language choice so it’s spoken everywhere. The Germans, Dutch and Belgians I meet when I’m working don’t speak French but they all speak very good English and so the site manager is required to speak English. Even the French holidaymakers speak English and want to practice when they hear an English accent. It’s understandable that Brits (and other English speakers) often have an ambivalent attitude to learning other languages.

I would agree with your last sentence.

British schools teaching mandarin is a bit potty IMO - not because it has no educational merit but because the chance of needing to use it in anger is the square root of didly-squat for most Brits.

Yes, it is the commonest language but if you take all speakers, not just those for whom it is the mother tongue it only just pips English (1.09 billion vs 983 million according to Wikipedia).

I would have thought Hindi or Spanish would be better candidates for a useful language for British schoolchildren to learn.

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In France, IIRC they teach Mandarin as a third language after (mainly) English but I think German is as much a favourite.

My French step-son is 16 and he is studying English (he’s pretty good at that!) and Spanish. He was also learning Latin until last year. I’m not sure if the Spanish is because we are in the South-West or if this is generally taught across France.

For older people learning a language is said to help to keep the brain active and help offset dementia.

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