Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Speaking English.

I watched a report on the news yesterday. It was about an Irish girl who has gone missing in Malaysia. The local police chief made a statement, and he made it in English. Admittedly, he had a strong accent, but I could easily understand everything he said. It occurred to me that if a Malaysian girl had gone missing in England, or Ireland, then our respective police chiefs would have been highly unlikely to have been able to present a report in her language, and would have almost certainly used an interpreter, or not bothered to refer to her native language in any way.

Not for the first time in my life, I thought how lucky I am to have been born as an English-speaker. For as long as I can remember, English has been widely-spoken, all over the world. It is very unusual for someone to be interviewed, and for them not to be replying in English, whatever their first language might be. Actors and actresses, film stars, sports stars, famous writers, and even some politicians, all managed to communicate in English, wherever they were born and brought up.

I have travelled to many countries where English is not the first language. But I never once failed to make myself understood, or find someone who could speak to me in English, however rudimentary their knowledge of the language. I learned French at school, and by the age of 18, I could speak it quite well. But when I visited countries where that was the language, I hardly needed to use it. As soon as they realised I was from England, people would happily converse with me in my language. I have even met people in Holland and Belgium who spoke English with such a good accent, they could have passed for British, Canadian, or American quite easily.

Yet so few people in this country can understand another language, let alone speak one. Yes, we are lazy, and with good reason. People speak English everywhere, so we don’t have to bother to try. Unless we really want to.

Then I discovered blogging, in 2012. So much good writing, and the majority of it in English. I have blogging friends who live in The Philippines, Vietnam, Holland, Italy, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Scandinavia, Pakistan, Germany, Greece, France, Portugal, and even all over Africa. Yet they all blog in English. They understand everything I write in my posts and comments, and reply in perfect English too. I installed the ‘Translate’ widget, and almost never have to use it. (With some rare exceptions for Chinese and Japanese characters)

Those of us born in countries where English is the ‘first language’ are very fortunate, and we should be grateful.

I know I am.

80 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

  1. In South Africa most people speak four or five languages with English being a kind of lingua franca. Many also speak Afrikaans due to it being forced on them by the Apartheid government. I can only speak one additional language (that being Afrikaans) but I can understand enough Flemish and Dutch to sort of get by. I do feel very grateful to be able to speak English fluently as it opens endless opportunities.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re right about how lucky we are.

    I was speaking (in English) to an old guy in Valencia a few years ago. I complimented him on his English and he explained that he had worked in Spain for a Belgium based construction company since 1977. The company had offices all over Europe, and if he needed to speak to a colleague in any other country, the common language was French.

    By the time he left in the company, the common language had changed to English.

    I wonder if the common language in Europe might gradually change back to French in the future, with increasing British and American isolationism.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hey Pete! In India, we have 18 official languages and anyone with 8th grade education knows atleast 3 languages, Hindi, English and a regional language. It is quite a stretch for some, but required. And if you are lucky to be brought up in a Metropolitan city, you will probably learn 3-4 more languages! My own toddler started off with 4 languages at home!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have no doubt that Spanish could be useful in the US, Pam. Though I do actually think that those people who wish to be US citizens should have to learn to speak acceptable ‘American’. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I watched someone complaining about the border-crossing would-be immigrants on the TV news. She turned to the camera and yelled, “They can’t even talk American!” So I just had to get that in, Pam. 🙂 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I think having a requirement for learning English in the US would be a mistake and encourage those who are already, shall we say, looking at their own navels. While English dominates and it is all I really have, I think a single or official language would make us duller than we already are. Warmest regards, Theo

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I do not speak any language other than English. I took Latin at the urging of my parents and my guidance counselor. I have always envied those who were multi-lingual. It is an aspect of life I missed out on.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. J’ai essayé de saisir le sens de ce que tu as écrit, mais sans succès, même avec l’aide d’un bon dictionnaire. Pourrais-tu écrire en français ? Malgré tous mes efforts, l’anglais me reste toujours incompréhensible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I tried to grasp the meaning of what you wrote, but without success, even with the help of a good dictionary. Could you write it in French? Despite my best efforts, English is still incomprehensible to me”.
      I translated it as best I could, for the benefit of those who might want to read your comment, David. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Pete, terrific post – it’s indeed the universal language, as long as we also respect that everyone’s the right to their language of choice…I say that because, her win the US, there are still too many people who are NOT respectful of someone who speaks a different language 0 it makes them a “foreigner” – even when they are a US citizen…it’s one of the issues we are struggling with here at the moment, not helped by the racist, hateful language of our leaders…

      Liked by 3 people

      1. We have many immigrants from Indiia and Pakistan who have lived here for decades but never managed to speak English. They rely on people in their own community to help them. As a country, we support them by having important notices printed in their languages.
        When I lived in Camden, in London, the official medical documents at my local doctor’s were available in 15 languages! 🙂
        Best wishes, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. though not my first language, English was the medium of instructions when I was in school in the Philippines. And i am grateful that it was. today, wherever i go, English is readily spoken. very convenient.
    great thoughts on a Sunday, Pete 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I always try to learn a few salient phrases in the language of where I’m travelling to, but invariably when I try it out someone speaks back to me in English! I did manage a French o level so I can get by over there.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I have never had a bother in Poland, someone always speaks English 🙂 Whilst I’m a little embarrassed sometimes that my Polish isn’t better, the ensuing sign language and drawing can be fun, as are my mistakes 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Right you are, sir! Since I’ve been haggling with Deutsch for most of my life, it has become even harder for lazy souls to pick up a language since their phone with Google translation can instantly translate their thoughts, point it to the person in front of them (I admit if I were in China or Japan or Malasia, I’d have to resort to this to get by) to communicate. I’m just glad that colleges and universities over here in Arizona won’t take a high school graduate if they don’t have 2 years of a world language on their transcripts. As soon as they stop that, then I fear many high school students wouldn’t bother to learn French or German or Spanish.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, and that information, Cindy. I have been to Malaysia, and found English widely spoken wherever I went. But I was only in and around the capital city. Much of the country was a British colony from 1824 until 1957, which no doubt helped.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Strangely enough when I was very young, about 10 I guess I began learning English. I watched my saturday morning cartoons like Transformers, He-man and such and even though I didn’t understand all the words, I picked up on things rather quickly. From there I went on to reading English books. I think it might surprise you to hear when I say that every book that I read is in English. I never read Dutch books. Most importantly because most of the times either translations aren’t available, or many things are lost in translation. My blog is in English too, because I will I want to reach more people, and that would not happen were I to blog in Dutch. I have always loved the English language, and I’m glad that I’m fortunate enough to speak it too. Have a great sunday Pete! 😊

    Liked by 5 people

        1. Yes, stop and search is extended to areas where a crime ‘may be likely to happen’.
          What about Epstein? He was never going to come to trial. Too many skeletons, in too many cupboards. Including a Royal one…

          Liked by 2 people

  11. You’re absolutely right, Pete. Traditionally, the British have been very lazy about learning foreign languages, although I’m sure that has improved in recent years. To be fair though, like you say, our good intentions are often thwarted by not wanting to offend those in other countries who want to practise their command on our language on us! I wouldn’t dream of saying that we’re doing them a favour, of course……. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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