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  Category: Articles » Education & Reference » Language » Article

What do you call someone who only speaks one language? American!

By Anthony Dwyer

Ok, so the title of this article is a little harsh. And it could've been rephrased lots of ways. In fact, people from Australia, Britain and New Zealand are just as guilty as Americans when it comes to only speaking their native language, yet expecting foreigners to learn English.

When I was in Europe earlier this year, I was amazed at the number of people who spoke "a little English". I say this because that's what they considered their English to be like, even though we could converse all night without any major troubles. And it wasn't just English a lot of these people learnt. I remember having a conversation with a man from Belgium in German and English. He was able to speak another two languages on top of this. There was another guy from Finland who spoke Finnish, English, Swedish, German and Japanese!

I've never met an Australian who spoke this many languages. Actually, apart from people whos parents come from overseas, I've never met an Australian who spoke two languages fluently. Let alone four or five languages! Why is this? Do these dastardly Europeans have some special genetic advantage over the rest of us? Of course not. I think it is partly due to culture and partly due to teaching.

In Europe, you are constantly exposed to other languages. This constant exposure makes it easier to pick up a second language. Imagine being able to practise German on a daily basis? This is very hard to do in countries like Australia or America. It is also usual for many Europeans to speak a couple of languages. It would be thought of as unusual to find a Dutchman who didn't speak English, for example.

In the United States, it's just not a normal thing to want to learn a language fluently. People are focused on other things. So, culture does play a large role in wanting to learn a language. Another factor is the teaching. I myself spent 5 years in high school learning Japanese, however, I was able to speak much better German after just spending maybe 20 hours listening to audio cds. Learning a language at school is often thought of as a painful experience and something that students no longer want to consider after they are no longer forced into doing it.

Something else I'd like to see changed is the general attitude of some non-European Westerners. If I had a dollar for everytime I heard "Well, they speak English, so why should we bother to learn XXXX" I wouldn't be here writing now! I think it's a shocking attitude and one that won't get you anywhere. If anything, just because a certain people have learnt English, you should want to learn their language more.

I really hope that has changed the way some of you think about learning a language. It doesn't have to be torture anymore, with all the great resources available these days. Visit my site to find reviews of the best ones out there.
About the Author
Anthony Dwyer runs the popular and free website that allows you to Learn Spanish online, it has free lessons on how to speak Spanish, information on grammar, verbs, adjectives, culture and much, much more.

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