Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Is English Really Enough?

I have two friends in Barcelona that can speak English, Spanish, Catalan and Mandarin. The number of people they could communicate with is amazing. In Europe, it's extremely common to meet people that can speak 5,6,7 or more languages. It always amazes me when I see friends here effortlessly switch from one language to another to another to another.

The lack of interest most Americans have learning a second language is very unfortunate. I hate to admit that until recently I was in the group. I wish I would have been smarter and started earlier (just like my father always told me).

Interest Facts (source):

  • Spanish has grown to be roughly the same size as English in terms of its native-speaker base, and may overtake it. Spanish is challenging English in some parts of the USA, where a number of towns have predominantly Spanish-speaking populations. Side comment for my US friends: How many times have you heard “Press one for English, press two for Spanish” when you call an 800? Exactly, a lot.
  • In terms of native-speaker rankings, English is falling in the world league tables. Only 50 years ago it was clearly in second place, after Mandarin. Estimating the number of speakers for the very large languages is surprisingly difficult, but it seems probable that Spanish, Hindi-Urdu and English all have broadly similar numbers of first-language speakers. Some commentators have suggested that English has slipped to fourth place, where its position will become challenged by Arabic in the middle of the present century. The figures opposite show the demographic profiles of Chinese, Spanish and Arabic over the century 1950–2050.
  • Chinese will remain the largest language terms of native speakers in the world for the foreseeable future. Its transnational use will grow.
  • Arabic, demographically speaking, is the fastest growing of the world languages.
  • While English is a major language, it only accounts for around 30% of the world Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is likely to account for less in the future. Neglecting other languages means ignoring significant potential markets.
I'm curious, what languages do you speak and what language(s) do you wish you could speak. I'd love to hear from you so please leave a comment.

5 comments:

NeiLDC said...

Hey Chris,
I speak English, Spanish, Tagalog, Ilocano and a would like to learn french and german!!
Ok amigo!!

Ivan said...

And I speak English, Serbian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, with very good understanding of Bulgarian, Czech, and Slovenian. I can order a few things in French too and have a VERY basic conversation in it. I wish I could speak Spanish (for obvious reasons!), French (because it's one of the most poetic and beautiful languages), German (because of its harsh sound that strangely turns me on), Swedish (because for some weird reason I love the pure sound of it; so far I can count in it a little bit), and Japanese (because it's simply too weird). Ole torero!!!

alexsander said...

I know what you mean, I know espanol, english, i also studied french, Japanese, portuguese , italian and hawaiian... for these I can understand some but it's hard to have a real conversation. I wish I could speak cantonese/mandarin :)

MYK'L said...

After living in Rome for 5 years, yeah I wish I could speak Italian - but the more I learn the more I wish I didn't understand what they were saying - vile.

Dustin said...

I speak English....and while drunk I think I can speak French, but I am so very wrong.