English is widely recognized as, if not the most important language, at least one of the most important languages in the world. As such, there is a great interest in learning it. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are always in demand and non-native speakers are usually eager to find ways to improve their English. Unfortunately, native English-speakers do not often have the same enthusiasm for learning other languages. Perhaps the popularity and importance that the English language enjoys makes English-speakers feel that they don’t need to speak any other language. It isn’t surprising that the British, as well as other English-speakers, have earned a reputation of being lazy with respect to linguistic ability.
As a result, in Great Britain, a campaign has recently developed with the intention of opening Brits’ minds and ears to different languages. The “Speak to the Future” campaign encourages everyone to learn at least 1,000 words of another language. The 1,000 word figure was set because that is enough words to have a simple conversation yet it is a realistic and attainable goal for anyone.
The effort is an attempt to improve, not only the language abilities of Great Britain’s people, but also their cultural awareness and adaptability. Learning a language opens one’s eyes to the culture of the people who speak it. The British have suffered the reputation of being “lazy” when it comes to learning and speaking different languages. And not speaking different languages has probably limited their abilities to relate to different cultures. The campaign aims to prove that the people of Great Britain are ready to engage with the rest of the world and with the world’s many languages and cultures.
Great Britain isn’t the only place that is infamously known for its limited linguistic scope. The United States suffers a similar reputation because many Americans cringe at the sound of languages that are not English. There is evidence that this attitude may be changing, thanks to globalization. More and more, people in first world, English-speaking countries are realizing that the world is much greater than the limits of their national boundaries. As a result, they are seeing the importance of being able to communicate in different languages.
The movement is not without some resistance. Not everyone wants to learn a new language. As we referred to in a previous post, learning a language requires you to go out of your comfort zone. Doing so is necessary for growth and development, but many would prefer to not deviate from what is comfortable.
The popularity of the English language, throughout the word, has given native English-speakers a great excuse not to leave their linguistic comfort zone. The bad news is that it has limited them and prevented them from learning things that could enrich their lives. Efforts, such as this recent campaign in the UK, attempt to expand the horizons of native English-speakers who are otherwise comfortably sheltered from languages that could open wonderful new doors for them.