Monday, November 17, 2008

SPEAKING OF LANGUAGES

When I was young, yes that long ago, we were offered French and German as foreign languages at school. In some schools Spanish was an option but largely thought of as being only useful if you were going to holiday in Benidorm.

French was the first choice being deemed in those far off days as an international language. Well how the world has changed!

Today English is still the number one international lingo albeit American English. Now even the French anglicise their language – le weekend – and everybody seems rather bemused that Spanish is the other pace-setter.

Spanish is the second or third most spoken language in the world depending on whether you include Chinese or not. Of course it is also a major language in the USA because of the large number of Hispanic immigrants.

Both England and Spain have one thing in common – they are the minority nations in which the languages they originated are now spoken. Spanish is the first language of choice for much of southern and central America whilst English dominates in the USA and Canada. This of course has led to variations of the original mother tongue with the word ‘coger’ having very different meanings in Spain and South America as ‘fag’ does in Britain and the USA.

On Saturday I popped in to my local baker who insisted that he count out my loaves in English – one – two – three – he said with a very satisfied grin. Apparently his son is learning English at school so he is listening carefully to pick up various words. I told him the problem was that his son would only be taught to count from one to ten. “Yes”, he replied, “I asked him the other day what was the English for twelve and he just shrugged his shoulders”.

As English and Spanish are now both major languages it is pleasing to note that the people of Britain and Spain are making such efforts to learn each others tongues.

There are those of course in each of our countries that have rejected English and Spanish for political purposes. Hence you find road signs in Welsh that nobody can understand and in the Basque, Catalan and other ‘separatist’ regions of Spain the local language is pushed to the fore.

Isn’t it ironic as the world gets smaller and English with Spanish take centre stage there are those who in the name of “nationalism” insist on languages being used that even their own people do not speak.

1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

There is an alternative to English (or Spanish!) as the dominant World Language, and its name is Esperanto.

Esperanto is now within the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA factbook. It is the 17th most used language in Wikipedia, and in use by Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

Native Esperanto speakers, include George Soros, Ulrich Brandenburg the new German Ambassador to NATO, and World Champion Chess Player, Susan Polger.

The World Esperanto Association enjoys consultative relations with both the United Nations and UNESCO.

Evidence can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

An interesting video can be seen at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670