Should I have done more about learning another language and am I ignorant for not trying?
Today a young Spanish college student started a work placement in the department I manage (despite living the daydream of being a writer, I've still gotta pay the bills). He's spending the next few months in England before heading back to sunnier climates and one of the objectives is to learn more about the English language and improve his command of it. I have to say that his knowledge and use of English is far superior to my virtually non-existent understanding of Spanish and to be quite frank, I feel so ignorant!
I am aware that so many school children over the world are taught English as a second language and after talking to my new Spanish colleague, I have a greater understanding as to why there is so much importance placed on learning English. However, I can't help thinking that I've grown up in a generation of Brits who haven't placed a great deal of value on learning another language. Recalling my school days in the 1980's, "Modern Languages" (even the title displayed a typically British arrogance) were compulsory for students aged 11 — 13 and then optional for the later years. At the time, many friends and family were of the opinion that there was little point in learning another language because everyone in other countries spoke English. As they travelled to the Spanish beaches in search of the sun, they would make little or no effort to learn any of the basic Spanish phrases. If they could be served a cold beer from an English speaking waiter, then they were in heaven!
I've only been abroad twice (Spain and Malta) in my 42 years and I did try to learn some of the basics. I'm now adamant that I'll learn some basic Spanish so that I can communicate better with my new colleague, so perhaps I'm not as ignorant as I believe? I'd be interested to hear opinions on this.