English sounds like the ideal place to start when learning another language, especially a European language. This is because English steals words from other languages. Indeed this can be seen by the mere fact English has more words than many other languages. So if you live in relatively far away Russia, English has adapted a word or two in just recent times with glasnost and perestroika.
When learning a second language, common words between the languages are the easiest to decipher. Since English has so many of these springboards to other languages you would think many English speakers might learn a second language or two.
But it’s just the opposite. We anglophones sit in our ivory towers of English and demand that the rest of the world learn English. Because of this and other reasons, English has become a world language. It is, for example, the language of aviation.
I live in English speaking Canada. Although we have French as another official languge, the English speaker that bothers to learn that language well is rare. But the majority of French people in Canada have learned at least passable English. Of course we English-only Canadians are limiting ourselves. It is unlikely that a speaker of English-only would ever be able to become prime minister.
I think the fact that we know others will bother to learn English allows us to be lazy. We can pretend we are the centre of the world till along comes a book, movie or song from another language that is judged to be so good that even English speakers hear about its presence. But then do we try to meet this awesome art on its own terms? No, we wait for the translation, the overdub, the subtitles or the English cover.
I know some of you are thinking that the springboard works when learning English, too. Most of those foreign languages have a few words in common with English so the newcomer to English has a slightly easier job of learning the language.
I used to think that I’m saving my brain for more important things than language. That’s why English has become such a world language. We’ve saved our brains for other things and that’s why there is such a flowering of English in the arts, sciences and fine arts.
But an older me realizes that if no English speaker learns another language, than there will be many unbreakable ciphers that not any English speaker can break. Getting rid of books and information about learning other languages might be easy, and that would cement our ignorance.
I know you might think of this as being far fetched. Of course someone in the English speaking world will bother learning a second language. But what if those that bothered throw in with the non native speakers of English? Learning only English could be our downfall. They could speak right in front of us and we wouldn’t have a clue what they’re saying. Or they could speak directly in front of us and we would only be able to understand only those few words that are the same in English.
English only policies just aren’t wise in the long run.