I started, well enrolled, in my language lessons, a couple of weeks ago and I was compelled to stand in front of the class to introduce myself. As previously mentioned I am a shy person so every moment I stood there, palms sweating and face turning a very unattractive shade of red, I was stuttering and stumbling over my words.
It appears that I am taking this class with some already very talented linguists. All barring one of my fellow students are from different areas of Europe and beyond, and are already quite fluent in English.
It is a failing of British, and I think most English speaking countries and their schools, that there is a distinct lack of effective second language teaching. I know that when I was at school I did not start to learn a second language until I was 11, which has been proven to be less than effective, when learning a new language. Most other developed countries start their language teaching at the primary school age, when the young mind is still most open to new learning.
Before I left the UK I noticed a leaflet in Starbucks advertising pre-school language lessons, I thought it a fantastic idea but sadly it was a private (for that read pay lots of money) scheme but it should be taught as standard. English may well be the standard business language but we lose so much respect in the international market because we tend to be so arrogant as to expect it. The worst part is that if you look even remotely ‘English speaking’ you will be patronised and talked down to (in English) by speakers of other languages because they speak it far better than you will ever speak theirs.
I have tried speaking Greek here only for people to respond in English. It is annoying and soul destroying because they speak my language better than I will ever speak Greek. They have been learning since they were four or five years old, I only started learning when I was twenty-eight (the point when we decided to get married here) and I have brain atrophy to contend with.
It will not stop me trying but I do lose my temper quite spectacularly when they thwart my attempts. I want to ask the question, “Why did you learn to speak English?”
I had a go the other day when we went for pizza, the bonus to that is that our “Pizza Lady” is also a learner, albeit a far more advanced one, and she is far less judgemental than a native speaker is.
Not that the native speakers are judgemental at all, that’s just how I perceive them to be in response to my ineffectual muttering.