doesn’t everyone speak English anyway?

english speak arrow



“To write or even speak English is not a science but an art.

There are no reliable words.

Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence.


He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up.”

George Orwell






¾ of the global population doesn’t speak English <at all>.


94% of English speakers only speak it as a second language.


america head explodesamerican proud to beAnd while America has always defined itself as a melting pot of people & culture, of the 291.5 million people aged 5 and over, only 60.6 million people <about 21% of this population> actually speaks a language other than English.


I type this even as it becomes obvious that America is an increasingly multilingual nation.




As a comparison … 39% of the UK adult population claim to speak a second language well enough to have a conversation.


And this compares with an average of 54% across 27 European countries.




All you have to do is travel a little outside of the USA and you will notice that not only have most people in other countries figured out how to communicate even at a most basic level in English <they wouldn’t claim it as fluency or even a second language … they just figure out enough> in addition most actually speak a second language.


In contrast.


All you have to do is travel a little inside USA and you will notice not only have most people never learned even a non-fluent additional language … but none actually can speak a second language <and you will sometime wonder what version of English they learned>.



The number of individuals who speak a language other than English at home is on the rise <growing about 47% over the past 10 years or so>.


But this 20% or so of foreign language speakers are concentrated in 10 states. Led by California (40 percent ) , this group includes several other Western states as well as New York , New Jersey, Florida and Rhode Island .


The concentration is even more evident when you look at metropolitan areas.


In six metros, including Miami and Laredo, Texas, those who speak only English at home are in the minority. In five Mexican border towns in this category, Spanish accounts for more than 96 percent of non – English languages spoken.



Maybe I bring this up because there seems so much emphasis these days on basic education <STEM – science, technology, English & math> that we tend to ignore other things.outcome generation

We Americans like our ‘focus on outcome’ and ‘focus on priorities’ so much we sometimes tend to overlook the … well  .. everything else.


We need more people to study languages <especially if we buy into this ‘globalization’ thing>.

Part of the reason I believe we ignore languages <and focus on STEM> is our arrogance.

Ask the majority of Americans ‘how many people globally speak English?’ and I bet you get a derivative of the following two answers:


–          Most do …


–          If they don’t they should … because English is the global language.



Sometimes I think we do not even recognize the low level arrogance.




I fully understand that because the United States is spread out over a huge land mass … most of the people has no need to speak a language in addition to English in order to communicate with people who live nearby.



The United States shares a 5,525-mile border with Canada, where the majority of citizens speak English.


The situation is somewhat different in a few large cities and in parts of the American Southwest, where a person may hear both English and other languages, especially Spanish, spoken side by side.


Those are exceptions.

In most of the United States a person is not likely to hear a language other than English spoken as part of everyday life.


In addition.

While the United States does not have an official language, for practical purposes English has been the language that virtually all residents speak and the one that immigrants are expected to master.


I find it interesting that most American students are introduced to a foreign language as early as elementary school.

Despite this, instruction is usually not continuous, the curriculum may not be well designed and the standards for instruction vary from place to place.


The primary reason for this is that the U.S. Constitution leaves the education of citizens to the individual states. The U.S. federal government does encourage certain educational emphases and programs, but it neither mandates instruction in a given subject nor sets a national goal such as the “native language-plus-two” goal of the European Union.


What this really means is that USA will end up facing a new deficit.

speaking Power of Words 577x600

A deficit in foreign language skills at a time when globally the demand for multilingual skills is expanding.




I’m not suggesting everyone has to learn a second language.



I am suggesting that other countries in other parts of the world are actually more enlightened than we are <yikes … that is a blow to the American ego>.


And, yes, I am suggesting that knowing a second language is a reflection of some type of enlightenment.



What I really believe is that in learning a second language not only do you become more capable in a global economy but you also will better learn  your primary language.




Suffice it to say.

Having to learn another language make you stronger within your own language.

speak many languages

That point alone may make learning another language worthwhile.




The train has left the station for us older folk but there is time for younger people. But it would help if us older folk admitted learning a language other than English wasn’t an unpatriotic <or un-american> thought. It would help if we did not have an “english only” attitude.



That is an entirely different opinion article




, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Bruce