Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Necessity of English

I am finding that I am still having to talk quite a lot in English with various people, mostly volunteers who have not yet got the hang of French, and to be honest it detracts significantly from my French-immersion environment, especially when it means talking in English with people who are capable of talking in French.

In this situation, speaking English is a clear advantage for me, because it means I can communicate with more people. However, I have found that for the majority of Belgians, if you want to stay in Belgium, there is not a huge demand for English. Unless you work somewhere international like an airport or main train station, it seems likely that knowing French, and maybe a bit of Dutch, will get you by.

In fact, a lot of the students here have a similar attitude to the UK students I have come across - "I don't need to learn another language, everyone here speaks my language". It's pretty funny to hear a Belgian teenager use exactly the same rationale for not learning English, as English students use for not learning French!

I suppose it struck me as quite strange that you can really live here, not knowing any English at all, with no problems. In the UK we are sold the idea that just knowing English will get you wherever you want to be, because everybody else has done the hard work and learned your language first. But if I have learned anything from travelling to various countries such as the Czech Republic, Russia and yes even Belgium, it is that outside of the main international areas like the airport, no one is obliged to speak English, and so it really is necessary to make some kind of effort if you're going to get where you want to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment