It’s ironic that the young voted Remain but, to judge by their A-level choices, only want to converse with the world in English. That fantasy of expat life in the sun, or chilling at a cool Berlin café table, may not involve talking to anyone local. For, our rising generation is highly unlikely to be comfortable conversing freely in anything but English. Once again, numbers taking language A levels have dropped; as a result, schools and colleges can afford fewer classes. It’s a vicious circle, and the number of modern language teachers continues to decline.
We, at IDEAL-Language and Culture in Brighton/UK, obviously speak English but also French and German. We don’t “test” our international clients but involve them actively wherever we can. Instead of “mistakes”, learning steps shape the daily learning and practising of the English language – perhaps language learning should be taken right out of the depressing test system and treated more like routine exercise or games. I have read that in some systems – including parts of the US – even young children are taught one mainstream subject in a second language they are learning. This immersive approach takes the pressure off strict grammatical correctness and reminds them that the purpose of language is to COMMUNICATE – one core IDEAL philosophy!
It is hard not to connect British linguistic reluctance with our endemic national weakness: island arrogance and a half-conscious memory of the days when we were an imperial force. It creates a pleasing but dangerous conviction that our islands are the natural centre of the world, and that we speak a uniquely rich and wonderful tongue which absorbed the best of all others to make something special. The result is a vague feeling that English is the natural default language, the “normal” one. So if the world wants to speak with us, it will do so in English.
We should all have extra languages, even without strict correctness, not just for practical and business reasons but because it expands thinking, feeling and sensitivity to subtle meaning. Everyone enjoys collecting “untranslatables”, foreign words we can’t neatly reproduce: manana, Fernweh, flaneur, Schadenfreude, etc. Appreciating the cultural depth behind German words such as Angst and Wanderlust and the crispness of French chic can of course be done via English adoption; but it must be better to meet them in context, wrapped in nuance and other nations’ stories.
Our ideal balance of formal and informal English language training at IDEAL/Brighton will give you the platform to understand AND feel the English language more naturally. Language and culture are both intertwined and depend on each other.