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This is something that has started to rise in recent times, the absolute mastery of English by Europeans, and I think it’s fascinating, as really they are the true bi-linguists of today.
Firstly, I will admit there are plenty of Europeans who don’t speak English if at all, and I’m not talking about them, they tend to be the ones who are happy with where they are at and have no desire to move forward – but I’m going to suggest (and shoot me down if you want), that a lot of these people if they are under 50 years old, will know deep down – to learn English would be a good thing…the world will open up more.
Anyway – so let’s get down into the question – why is it that Europeans have become virtual native speakers?
The research first shows that in most European countries:
- English is the taught right from the beginner of school – even if it’s a couple of hours a week
- English is now the most common chosen second language to learn in high school – the others are French, German and Italian. So clearly young people are realizing that none of these other languages would really serve them well, that English is the best option
- Virtually all university courses require both a competency in the local language and English language, if only for the readings necessary
- the influx of the amount of media into the country from the English speaking world is truly mind-boggling, e.g. news on television, films, music and social media.
But all of this has not only just come from the European countries governments allowing this kind of intrusion into their people’s lives, the people have more often than not – sought it out for themselves. Purely by the fact that the culture of the European countries nowadays is really very similar to all other western countries, and so to embrace your own culture means you embrace all western culture – including English.
There are a few die-hard’s like the French. I often find it strange going to even Canadian French and finding that there is still a reaction to learning English, or speaking English and they so proudly state that French only must be spoken in their presence. I also find it fascinating that for many English speaking television programmes and films that even subtitles are not being used, the whole thing has to be dubbed in French before they will release it on the screen or television. (This may be dying now so correct me if I am wrong).
But saying all this, it isn’t just the acquisition and use of English by Europeans that fascinates me, it’s the fact that so many Europeans are now ‘native speakers’ of English with almost non-existent accents of their own language. These are people who have often never spent any great length of time outside their country. This is the most interesting point of all.
Mind final point here is two-fold:
- The domination of mass media through English and the internet I suspect is the reason
- If this is what is happening to Europe now, I can see with the internet now reaching all corners of the world with speed and accuracy, the rest of the world will soon follow.
Looking forward to it.