Are English speakers lazy?

rhiannonhelen

Senior Member
English, England
I am interested to know whether people from other countries view the English attitude towards learning language as lazy? Being from England myself, I do think this is the case. It used to be compulsory that students learnt at least one language up until the age of 16, but this has been changed and they can drop it at just 13. (Most only begin learning at 11). Whenever I go abroad, I am in awe at how much better people's English is, than their English counterparts would be at their language. Do you think this is because people begin learning languages at a younger age in other countries, or because they're exposed to more English than we are to other languages or is it the arrogance of English speakers?
When my dad told his friend that I was studying languages at university, he replied, "Why that's not very useful - everyone speaks English."
 
  • timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I think by phrasing the question as you have you are comparing apples with pears. At the end of the day English has reached an importance for international communication unrivalled by say French, Spanish or German - I don't think many people would argue with that. So from a point of having a "rounded" education in many countries speaking English would be viewed as having the same importance as knowing maths or chemistry.

    Now, native English speakers are in the lucky position of already speaking fluent English. They do not have the extra incentive to learn, say, French that a French person does to learn English.

    I think a fairer question to ask would be is the average Italian better at speaking Swedish than the average Frenchman? Is the fluency of Russians speaking Arabic greater than the average man from Liverpool? I would suspect not.

    To put it another way - are you expecting English speakers to speak fluent French and Spanish and German and Italian and so on? Presuming not, and given the importance awarded to speaking English in those cultures, you are always going to find the average English spoken by the average --insert nationality-- better than the --insert language-- spoken by the average English person, it's simple maths.

    I wouldn't be surprised, though, if the fact that learning English was prioritised in other countries this might inspire those students to learn another foreign language other than English, whereas the English speaker may well just stay not speaking any foreign language.

    Now, since you couch your question in terms of laziness, I think we could legitimately ask if the lucky native English speakers have spent the time they don't have to spend learning the international language (eg English) because they already speak it doing something else constructive that the other nationalities don't have time to do. Again, I suspect not;)
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    imithe
    We are not - as a species - lazy, but we often don't do any more than we absolutely have to.
    If your dad's benighted friend really believes that "everybody speaks English" he would, in his own mind, be daft to put himself to the trouble of learning some other language. He is not alone in his thinking. He is also not alone in being wrong.
    If you were a French-speaker seeking a service of some sort, would you be more likely to deal with an English company which insisted that you deal with them in English, or a Spanish company which had a French speaker on their staff to deal with you?
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    I don't know if this is really within the topic of laziness, but I have heard some French people complain about an attitude of English native speakers in business environment, and especially the British I must say. They have the feeling that some English speakers really take it for granted that everyone speaks English, and will not make any effort to make it easier for other nationalities.
    Someone was mentioning an English business contact who, when he asks her to repeat something he hasn't understood, repeats the exact same sentence at the exact same pace... If he didn't understand the first time, chances are he won't either the second time if she doesn't try to reformulate or speak slower.

    I am reporting an opinion I've heard, I have not experienced this myself.

    Please note that I've carefully used the word "some" - of course I don't think this applies to a majority of English businessmen :)
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    geve said:
    I don't know it this is really within the topic of laziness, but I have heard some French people complain about an attitude of English native speakers in business environment, and especially the British I must say. They have the feeling that some English speakers really take it for granted that everyone speaks English, and will not make any effort to make it easier for other nationalities.
    Someone was mentioning an English business contact who, when he asks her to repeat something he hasn't understood, repeats the exact same sentence at the exact same pace... If he didn't understand the first time, chances are he won't either the second time if she doesn't try to reformulate or speak slower.

    I am reporting an opinion I've heard, I have not experienced this myself.

    Please note that I've carefully used the word "some" - of course I don't think this applies to a majority of English businessmen :)
    I could believe your story Geve. I've heard English speakers speaking to foreigners at 100 miles per hour and using slang and not making any allowance for the fact that English isn't the other person's native tongue. I've even pointed it out to them and it's made no difference, they listen but really have no idea how to put that into practice, as if they believe that everyone understands English perfectly, really.:eek: I could also believe that some English speakers get used to English being spoken everywhere to the point where they do not even ask the polite question "do you speak English?". But, again, I suspect that this is just indicative of human nature of some people, rather than a fault special to English speakers. In other words, if French had become the international language I suspect there would be the same percentage of French speakers not making allowance for foreign speakers understanding French - if you see what I mean.
     

    rhiannonhelen

    Senior Member
    English, England
    Yes, I'm not sure I mean laziness per se. But I don't think that English is so dominant that we can afford to stop learning other languages. As Geve has illustrated, it's only polite to show a little willingness to engage with someone in their native language even if it's just a "bonjour". I think it's such a widespread belief that English prevails and we can get by without other languages, that children are not being encouraged to take them up and I really think they're missing out, because it's not just about talking to people, but reading the literature and learning about the culture too.
    Also, in reponse to Timpeac's point regarding whether an Italian may be better at learning Arabic than an average Liverpudlian, I would say that they may well be. If they already have another language under their belt, i.e. English, I believe their ability to pick up another language is greater than someone who can only speak their native tongue. Indeed I have found with every new language I begin, it gets a little easier.
     

    Keikikoka

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I think it is natural for people to be lazy with their own language as far as sticking to the rules is concerned. So I don't think Anglophones are more lazy speaking english than Italians are with speaking Italian, Latinos speaking Spanish, or any other ethnic group speaking their own respective language.

    I think the majority of learners of second languages tend to be more careful with that language than their own, although this is my own unsubstantiated opinion. So english-as-a-second-language speakers are more likely to be careful with speaking english than a native english speaker. However, I think that works with any language. It just happens that their is more incentive to learn english than vice versa.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    rhiannonhelen said:
    Yes, I'm not sure I mean laziness per se. But I don't think that English is so dominant that we can afford to stop learning other languages. As Geve has illustrated, it's only polite to show a little willingness to engage with someone in their native language even if it's just a "bonjour". I think it's such a widespread belief that English prevails and we can get by without other languages, that children are not being encouraged to take them up and I really think they're missing out, because it's not just about talking to people, but reading the literature and learning about the culture too.
    Also, in reponse to Timpeac's point regarding whether an Italian may be better at learning Arabic than an average Liverpudlian, I would say that they may well be. If they already have another language under their belt, i.e. English, I believe their ability to pick up another language is greater than someone who can only speak their native tongue. Indeed I have found with every new language I begin, it gets a little easier.
    I think I would agree that on average English speakers do not prioritise learning foreign languages as much as other nationalities. But I think that I would not put this down to laziness but rather to the fact that it is not as important for an English speaker to learn xyz foreign language simply because, luckily for them, their own language has become the international one.

    When I say "not as important" I do mean just that though - I'm not saying it isn't an important thing. As you and others point out knowing a foreign language full stop is a good thing, and I do think that the English speakers who avoid learning any foreign language are very much missing out on something beneficial to themselves and others. Especially since, as I imply above, I don't believe they have gone and spent the time saved doing anything else constructive.:)

    I think you can tell your dad's friend we all think he's a wally;)
     

    Between2mindsGeor

    Member
    español (Argentina/España)
    I can only tell from my own experience that as in many other countries and cultures, there are as English speakers as colours in the rainbow. It takes all kinds.
    Here in Spain, you can find the average Englishman who would try his best to ask for a cup of coffee in Spanish, but then again, when he tries hard to ask something else in Spanish and getting a weird face for an answer, his next question is: "Habla inglés?"
    I find it difficult to take a side in this story. Many Spaniars usually state: "You live in Spain, then you should learn and speak Spanish. No one would talk to you in Spanish when you are in Britain, then why should we speak their language?" Why, I ask them, do you think this is a matter of pride?
    There is the case of those who after living for many years in Spain do not even attemp to understand the culture and/or the way the country is led. I take my knowledge as a mediator in my every day life. If I find someone trying to explain something in Spanish and fails to do so, I try to intervene for both sides.
    I understand the Britons, English is an easy language compared to Spanish and French, and I can tell, those who really care and try their best to be understood, in Spanish or French.
    Spanish or French are lucky, the roots of our language is Latin and we can -easily- learn other languages because we were taught a difficult one for mother tongue.
    I don't believe English are lazy, they only got to learn that their language is not the only one spoken in the world, and if they want to be a little respectful, they will not expect everyone to speak their language.
     
    Hi, Rhiannonhelen

    This is a complex and fascinating issue and I look forward to hearing what people from other language backgrounds have to say about it.

    I think that there is often some laziness on the part of your individual British English speakers. But I think that by far the most important factor is the wider historical, social, linguistic and political contexts.

    People learn best when they perceive a clear and ongoing need - in this case, a belief that if I do not learn another language I will be at a severe disadvantage in my education, in my job, in my business, in my health care, in my overseas travel, and so on.

    Contrast the situation for a Netherlands person who speaks only Dutch and a British person who speaks only English. Perhaps I should say contrast the hypothetical situation of a Welsh person who speaks ONLY Welsh with their English counterpart.

    The fact is that knowledge of a "foreign" language is not required (or even of much advantage) for the vast majority of British people (I am speaking from experience - it's probably the same in other English-speaking countries too).

    Young people in some countries, such as the Netherlands, typically grow up with family and friends who can also speak fluent English.

    Parts of Britain are very multi-cultural and multi-lingual. British employers find it much easier to recruit non-native English-speakers whose mother tongue is French, German, Italian, etc.

    Another observation that supports my argument that wider social factors are predominant is my impression that in the UK many young people of non-English family backgrounds (e.g. Indian, Pakistani, Turkish) grow up learning fluent written and spoken English but can barely read or write their "mother-tongue" and often have difficulties beyond basic personal chatting and greetings.

    I'm suggesting that this is evidence that the "problem" you refer to is not really about typically English people but rather about the dominant social and political forces that affect individuals' behaviour, aspirations, expectations, etc.

    The ubiquitous spread of Hollywood and US TV programmes also plays its part. But on the other hand, the increasing availability of hundreds of digital TV channels in languages other than English is also having an impact on linguistic competence for the many linguistic minorities in British society.

    Another factor is that in Britain I think most employers see foreign-language ability as (a) a nice extra but not essential; and/or (b) a technician-level of skill - that is to say, if a senior manager needs to communicate in a foreign language, they will use an interpreter/translator.

    When I entered university many years ago, I had to pass a foreign language exam but after I got there, the language was never used or built on by the university studies. It was ignored.

    I have learnt basic German, French and Spanish, mainly for travel. That basic knowledge is very useful but most often the other person speaks better English than I speak their language.

    I have heard that many international governmental organisations such as the European Commission and United Nations, find that it is very hard to recruit sufficient numbers of interpreters/translators from the UK whose ability in other languages is sufficiently high. Another example is the UK government's current push to recruit more UK citizens fluent in languages such as Arabic and Urdu.

    So in conlcusion, I would argue that most indigenous British people (I include myself) are rather poor at foreign languages due to a mixture of individual laziness (it IS hard), social conventions and expectations, policies/requirements of employers, and the experience of British travellers relying on English to "get by" when they travel abroad.
     

    Residente Calle 13

    Senior Member
    New York City
    rhiannonhelen said:
    Whenever I go abroad, I am in awe at how much better people's English is, than their English counterparts would be at their language. Do you think this is because people begin learning languages at a younger age in other countries, or because they're exposed to more English than we are to other languages or is it the arrogance of English speakers?
    When my dad told his friend that I was studying languages at university, he replied, "Why that's not very useful - everyone speaks English."
    Hi Rhiannon,

    English is simply more in demand. While I don't think learning other languages is useless, I can understand why, for example, more Finns speak English than Englishmen speak Finnish. There are alot of factors that come into account but I don't think it's because the English are inheritantly lazy about learning foreign languages.

    If in other countries English is taught at an earlier age than foreign languages are taught in England, I think it's because English is a very high priority in those places than say French, Spanish, or German in England.

    Why English is seen a such a priority might be tangental so I won't get into that. Learning any foreign language, I think, is a great thing, but in some places where English is a foreign language it's seen almost as a necessity.
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    timpeac said:
    I could believe your story Geve. I've heard English speakers speaking to foreigners at 100 miles per hour and using slang and not making any allowance for the fact that English isn't the other person's native tongue. I've even pointed it out to them and it's made no difference, they listen but really have no idea how to put that into practice, as if they believe that everyone understands English perfectly, really.:eek:
    and this could be linked to the fact that they haven't learnt a foreign language! If one hasn't experienced the difficulties of learning a different language, one can find it hard to understand the difficulties that someone else might have to understand one's native language...

    And I agree that it's by no mean specific to English speakers.
    While travelling in the Jordanian desert in a Jeep with a local driver, we met a French man who was travelling with a large group of fellow French tourists. This French man started to talk in French to our driver (who spoke English but not a word of French). Seeing that the driver did not understand what he was saying, he said it again, but louder and slower... This man probably didn't speak any foreign language and could not imagine that if you haven't learnt a language, it's hard to understand it, no matter how hard you try. Ok, he was probably a bit stupid, too :rolleyes:

    You can live without learning a foreign language (you can even live without speaking English); but it's such a mind-opener to learn one -any language- even if you don't need it!
     

    Between2mindsGeor

    Member
    español (Argentina/España)
    As Antonio Banderas would tell, his father used to speak to Melanie Griffith - sorry if I've mispelled her name - louder and slower in Spanish believing she would understand what he was saying even when Melanie did not know a word of Spanish then.
    In Spanish there is an idioms that says:
    "Puedes decirlo más alto pero no más claro"
    You could say it louder but not clearer
     

    ablazza

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    •94% of the world’s population do not speak English as their mother tongue.

    • Over 60% of British trade is with non-English speaking countries.
    • Other European countries are aiming for skills in 3 languages.
    • 75% of the world’s population do not speak English.
    • Unemployment among new graduates in the UK in 2000:
    All UK graduates 5.5%
    Modern Languages graduates 4.3%
    School of Languages and European Studies, Aston University 2003
     

    Auryn

    Senior Member
    France, French
    rhiannonhelen said:
    When my dad told his friend that I was studying languages at university, he replied, "Why that's not very useful - everyone speaks English."
    Oh dear.

    I once met a British woman who, upon learning I was French, went on and on about this wonderful holiday she was about to go on, in a cute little French village buried deep in an area that had no tourist industry whatsoever, actually it had no tourists at all, in fact she and her husband had basically discovered the place, blah blah blah. I listened politely :)

    A few months later I bumped into her again and asked how the holiday had gone. Her reply: "It was a nightmare! Nobody spoke English!"

    To be fair, French people can be guilty of this too (and with a lot less justification!). My boyfriend sells a lot of things on ebay. All his ebay pages are written in English and list his location as the UK. Well you wouldn't believe how many French buyers email him in French asking all sorts of questions, without even asking whether he speaks the language or apologising for not writing in English! I find it amazingly rude.
     

    tvdxer

    Senior Member
    Minnesota, U.S.A. - English
    rhiannonhelen said:
    I am interested to know whether people from other countries view the English attitude towards learning language as lazy? Being from England myself, I do think this is the case. It used to be compulsory that students learnt at least one language up until the age of 16, but this has been changed and they can drop it at just 13. (Most only begin learning at 11). Whenever I go abroad, I am in awe at how much better people's English is, than their English counterparts would be at their language. Do you think this is because people begin learning languages at a younger age in other countries, or because they're exposed to more English than we are to other languages or is it the arrogance of English speakers?
    When my dad told his friend that I was studying languages at university, he replied, "Why that's not very useful - everyone speaks English."
    I think it's a matter of utility. Learning English is a major key to the international business, scientific/technical, and media (among others) world to those who grew up speaking Spanish, Italian, or German, and even moreso, less spoken languages like Finnish or Dutch. Many, maybe most people are not really interested in learning second languages for any other reason than a practical one, unlike us here, who are more deeply interested in the language's structure and the culture behind it.

    If Finnish was the world's lingua franca, would most Finns be interested in learning English? I doubt it.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    There have been similar threads about the "lazy" Spanish immigrants to the USA not bothering to learn English, and expecting everyone to provide services to them in Spanish.
     

    danielfranco

    Senior Member
    Just a report from the trenches:
    When I go around noticing that some of the nurses and doctors in the hospital where I work do understand a fair amount of Spanish and I ask them how come they don't "give it a whack" and try to speak to the patients, they all say the same thing: they feel stupid trying to speak in a foreign tongue...
    [And I still don't know if they feel stupid inside, or other people make them feel that way, you know?]
    But I can see how very difficult a nurse's job is, or how intellectualy demanding it is to be a doctor, so I don't think they are lazy for not trying to speak anything other than English...
    However, more and more of them are actually learning Spanish, so that gap is actually narrowing somewhat.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    I'm rather sure that in the US, at least, laziness is not the reason for not learning another language: It can't be that the students are lazy. They don't set the curriculum. It can't be that the parents are lazy. They don't have to do the learning and they don't set the curriculum. School boards and principals don't under-emphasize foreign language learning out of laziness, either.

    So, laziness is not the issue. I tend to agree with Robbo (above)! Until very, very recently, not many people in the USA put a high priority on learning foreign languages. Even more so than Great Britain, the USA is, and has been, a culturally insular country! Only recently has the US government begun to emphasize FL learning - and that is because we are told that we need people to infiltrate terrorist groups!

    The large (and growing) hispanic population has made an impact on this narrow-mindedness (for better or for worse--depending on your political views--and I'm not getting into that here!). So we have telephone answering systems asking us to "press 1 for English" and "2 para espagnol." But those are the only two alternatives! I understand that more and more medical and nursing schools are asking their students to begin to learn Spanish. One of my god-daughters (a nurse) is actually being paid a bonus by her hospital to learn Spanish.

    So, no, AE speakers are not lazy. They are pragmatic: give them a good enough reason to learn a foreign language (or computer skills or sculpting, for that matter) and they will learn it!
     

    natasha2000

    Senior Member
    rhiannonhelen said:
    I am interested to know whether people from other countries view the English attitude towards learning language as lazy? Being from England myself, I do think this is the case. It used to be compulsory that students learnt at least one language up until the age of 16, but this has been changed and they can drop it at just 13. (Most only begin learning at 11). Whenever I go abroad, I am in awe at how much better people's English is, than their English counterparts would be at their language. Do you think this is because people begin learning languages at a younger age in other countries, or because they're exposed to more English than we are to other languages or is it the arrogance of English speakers?
    When my dad told his friend that I was studying languages at university, he replied, "Why that's not very useful - everyone speaks English."
    First of all, I am sorry for not reading all the posters before, but I am a kind of "lazy" myself...:D

    I think that any nation, if they were in English native speakers' shoes, would do the same. I really do not blame them... As a matter of fact, I also encountered the similar attitude here, in Spain. Ordinary people think - Whay I should learn English? Let them learn Spanish!
    But back to the subject, and the original question. I think there is a little bit of everything you said, and the reason is so well reflected in the sentence of your father's friend: Everyone speaks English. Therefore, this comodity gives a way to a little bit of laziness, a little bit of arrogance, a little bit of the absence of obligation by educational system... Other important thing is MOTIVATION. People in other countries, especially in contries whose language is spoken ONLY in the original country and nowhere else (like my own language, or all Skandianvian langueges, for example) are more motivated to learn some foreign language, usually it is English, since: Everyone speaks English, of course:D , because they want to be able to communcate with other people, from other parts of the world, and for that, at least one could learn English.
    I am sure that if for some miracle, the language Nº1 in the world were Serbian, and not English, more than 80% of Serbians who speak English, wouldn't speak it, from the same reason - commodity and lazyness.

    I am speaking here in general terms, of course there are also a lot of English native speakers who speak other languages, but I would dare to say there is a lot higher percentage of them who speak other language because they LOVE languages, and not because of the NECESSITY to learn it, while in countries like mine (or in Spain, too), there are a lot of people who learn foreign language not because they like it, but because they need it, usually on their jobs.
     

    Tinska

    Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    The thread must be a little old. I imagine the comments are from adult people, I suppose.
    I'm 17 years old, I had the opportunity to speak with English speakers my age or 16 and under. Many of them learn Spanish while I learn English, i.e. we exchange, they learn Spanish with my help and they help me with English. I speak English and they speak Spanish, or one day we speak English and another day Spanish:D:D:D:D:p
    It happens that in some people who were not interested in learning another language, they give it as a failed or difficult challenge or try.
    Regarding the world of globalisation I don't think so, I live in Argentina, English is an obligatory subject here, however we don't give it so much importance, I knew Argentines who don't even know English.
    I live in the country next to the Portuguese speaking giant and the rest of South America, which speaks Spanish.
    --
    The English speakers with whom I spoke don't learn languages like the typical school method with a not-so-skillful teacher where he or she pressures a group of students to pass the subject. They learn it simply as a hobby, some of them want to have more languages mastered. I met an English speaker who would like to learn to speak German, Spanish and Dutch. At least in Europe there are young people who want to be multilingual.
    On the side of the United States, I see this same pattern.
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    In the USA until recently there were two groups of people.
    The first group were those who were interested in languages, cultures, civilizations, travelling, cuisine, meeting people, seeing the world, reading literature, religion, architecture, music, history etc. etc. They would take studying foreign languages seriously, with a passion hardly equalled in other countries. Also a well-rounded person in general was said to know one foreign language. A wide range of languages were available and in cities you could find courses in really any language. Of course it divided the people interested as there was no real language that everyone loved. So if you were a German and wanted to speak German you'd have to look to find the Germanophiles around. But if you met people who did French or Chinese, well speaking German wouldn't work.

    The second group was everyone else, and depending where, who, and when could be a huge group. If you didn't care at all about foreign languages, there was really nothing pushing you to learn a language. This was seen normal too. There is no stigma attached to saying you speak English only. It's your call. The situation seen in some European studies where people study English at high levels and have no real interest in the language or the countries that speak it but need English to get their degree, read material and find a job is pretty unheard of. Only language geeks would consider foreign languages vital, and they are last on the list of important subjects to learn. Some are generally impressed if you make it to a B2 level and might even ask you to be the teacher.

    Why do people have low levels? It could be common for someone to have a bit of Spanish in school, a year of French in high school, in college they do Italian, then later they become interested in Hebrew and Chinese. When they stop studying one language they become rusty because they don't use it any more. When you stop going to Café do Brasil, watching Telemundo, shopping in Chinatown or going to the French cinema, the level drops. Again none of these languages are urgent and not knowing them doesn't affect daily existence. You must seek out these opportunities. The people aren't lazy (well not all of them collectively). It's just that one single language is not the top priority for everyone. It takes time and energy to learn a language, better even if you travel abroad. Few people keep it up for their whole life and end up stopping at some point. Plus the environment doesn't favor using the foreign language every single day unless you work at an embassy. I can see how in a place like Amsterdam, English is everywhere and you can't avoid it so it is constantly being reinforced. In most English speaking countries it's not so easy.

    This situation has been slowly evolving but not completely as of yet and it may vary. In America, Spanish is starting to be seen as important for people in many professions and sometimes a requirement for daily life depending on where you live. The rise in number of Spanish speakers is noticeable, as is the written language. Bilingual signs are pretty standard now. I have even heard politicians trying to speak Spanish so they can meet voters. You see the language become part of school curriculum earlier and earlier for children. In some areas the situation is slowly moving to an Amsterdam-like environment where you see or hear Spanish every day when you leave home. But let's not generalize. There are still many people who could care less and just tune out anything foreign.
     
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    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    The first group were those who were interested in languages, cultures, civilizations, travelling, cuisine, meeting people, seeing the world, reading literature, religion, architecture, music, history etc. etc. They would take studying foreign languages seriously, with a passion hardly equalled in other countries.
    Those people exist everywhere, as can be seen on this forum...
     

    Tinska

    Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    My nan never in her life travelled to Italy. She speaks it very well. How?
    Since she was young with Italian immigration, she started to talk to some Italians and read some books. She can sing the song Mamma by Luciano Pavarotti.
    Living in a country with a monolingual culture is no excuse for not learning a language.
     

    Ansku89

    Member
    Finnish
    I don't think it's about laziness. People whose native language is a small one don't learn foreign languages just because of their diligent attitude and love of learning, but simply because it's necessary. For English speakers, it's not necessary in the same way, everybody around them speaks English. For someone who lives in a multilingual country/area, people around them speak several languages and just to do their daily life they need to speak those languages too. If you have any kind of contact with foreigners you also need to speak English. This necessity gives the motivation to learn.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    I am interested to know whether people from other countries view the English attitude towards learning language as lazy? ...
    We do.
    ...

    ...

    At least I do when it is combined with the arrogant assumption that everybody else is obliged to learn English, without taking into consideration that in some parts of the world some other foreign language may be more important - or simply that some people had other things to do than learning English on the side.
    However, I do find it rather lazy and ignorant too, when people who are in the middle of their lives (supposedly) and working in normal modern jobs, and they don't care to learn English. I mean, I do not directly blame them for it because it still improves MY chances on the work market that so many others can't speak any languages properly other than their native one, but I do think it is rather stupid of them, because I can't imagine a lot of jobs today where you don't need it or at least where it is an advantage.

    ...

    So, no, AE speakers are not lazy. They are pragmatic: give them a good enough reason to learn a foreign language (or computer skills or sculpting, for that matter) and they will learn it!
    Here is one - it might make them capable of figuring out what is going on in the world outside the USA. That might solve a lot of problem for a lot of people inside and outside the USA.
     
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    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    I don't consider English speakers who don't want to learn another language lazy.

    However, it does "itch" a little that the USA is the only country in the world that doesn't want to adapt the metric system. 1.5 billion people are learning English wordwide, but Americans don't want to know what a meter or a kilogram is.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    I don't consider English speakers who don't want to learn another language lazy.

    However, it does "itch" a little that the USA is the only country in the world that doesn't want to adapt the metric system. 1.5 billion people are learning English wordwide, but Americans don't want to know what a meter or a kilogram is.
    Those who go abroad or work in certain scientific or engineering careers do learn the metric system and use it all the time, but common Americans living day to day in the United States have no need for it. Universally in daily life we live with Fahrenheit, miles, yards, inches, pints and pounds. It's culturally specific to Americans and they want to keep it. Why adopt something different when it works well? Foreigners only have to learn it if they decide to go to the US.
     

    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    The metric system is the preferred system of scientific units for several reasons:
    • The majority of countries in the world employ the metric system of measurement.
    • The prefixes attached to metric units carry the same meaning for all base units.
    • The metric system is based upon powers of ten, which is convenient because:
      • A measurement in the metric system that is represented by a rational number remains a rational number after metric unit conversion. (For example, 250 mm = 25 cm = .25 m). In contrast irrational unit systems , such as the English system, do not have the same property (For example, 250 inches = 20.8333... ft = 0.0039457... mile)
      • Because metric units are decimal-based, they are easily converted by moving the decimal point.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Those who go abroad or work in certain scientific or engineering careers do learn the metric system and use it all the time, but common Americans living day to day in the United States have no need for it. Universally in daily life we live with Fahrenheit, miles, yards, inches, pints and pounds. It's culturally specific to Americans and they want to keep it. Why adopt something different when it works well? Foreigners only have to learn it if they decide to go to the US.
    The same can be said about learning English. I know lots of people who have never visited an English speaking country, but they still had to learn English.

    I have to take some physics and biology classes in English, even though everyone in the auditorium can speak Dutch. "I don't have a need for that", isn't that exactly the response of a lazy person?
    There are already more than enough threads about metric vs imperial. This is specifically about English speakers being called "lazy" and whether or not that is justified.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    The same can be said about learning English. I know lots of people who have never visited an English speaking country, but they still had to learn English.

    I have to take some physics and biology classes in English, even though everyone in the auditorium can speak Dutch. "I don't have a need for that", isn't that exactly the response of a lazy person?

    There are already more than enough threads about metric vs imperial. This is specifically about English speakers being called "lazy" and whether or not that is justified.
    It may be lazy but justified. People have a right to speak their own language and use things like the imperial system or Fahrenheit which are specific to their culture when they are living in their home country. So, I'd indeed argue that if everyone speaks Dutch who registered for the class, the professor also speaks it, and we are in a Dutch speaking country, then the class should be taught in Dutch. If that's not done, something is wrong.
    I don't know why anyone would care if someone born and raised in Colorado, living their whole life in Colorado has or doesn't have the intention to learn what a gram or liter is.
     
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    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    ="Red Arrow, post: 18420226, member: 756675"]
    There are already more than enough threads about metric vs imperial.
    Where?
    Also it was you who began about the metric versus Imperial subject here . I merely followed up.
    This is specifically about English speakers being called "lazy" and whether or not that is justified.
    Lazy is a dumb suggestion in this language learning context.
    It's a question of personal interest and general need. The general need is low, the personal interest can be high.
     
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    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    So, I'd indeed argue that if everyone speaks Dutch who registered for the class, the professor also speaks it, and we are in a Dutch speaking country, then the class should be taught in Dutch. If that's not done, something is wrong.
    That is simply not the case in the Flanders, and even less so in the Netherlands. Universities want to be open for foreigners.
    For instance this one about why one should or shouldn't go metric.
    Also it was you who began about the metric versus Imperial subject here . I merely followed up.
    I simply don't know how else we can "measure" laziness when it comes to Anglophones. I am defining "lazy" in this discussion as: not willing to make communication with foreigners easier.

    Units of measurement are ultimately a form of language. Anglophones can already speak the de facto lingua franca, so if they don't want to learn a foreign language, it doesn't really make them "lazy". For instance Australians bothered to go metric, which means they are willing to adapt to make international communication easier, which means they are not "lazy".

    Calling Australians "lazy" for not learning a foreign language is like calling someone "lazy" for not playing a musical instrument. You don't need to learn it if it has no use to you.

    And of course, I understand the "laziness" of Americans. The USA is the biggest economy in the world. They don't need to adapt. Others are supposed to adapt to them. The metric system was supposed to make trade easy for all countries, but trade has always been easy for Americans, as long as everyone speaks English and uses the Imperial system.
     

    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    For instance this one about why one should or shouldn't go metric.
    I had been searching - without success - for prefixes used in the Imperial unit system.
    In fact I remember now having read here in WR a thread about unit systems. I'll look into your link.
    -----
    The thread is about (efforts made towards ) language learning.

    You can call a unit system a language, it's a special -scientific- kind of language, and anyhow the metric system is as much 'English language' as the Imperial system is. Also you can learn it (memorise it) in let's say an hour.
    -----

    As for 'lazy' :

    Is it fair to qualify them as lazy as there is not much need?
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    That is simply not the case in the Flanders, and even less so in the Netherlands. Universities want to be open for foreigners..
    This is simply amazing for me. Immersion in foreign language class is one thing, but this is quite different. The idea of structuring whole programs and courses at public universities to give preference to foreigners to the point of imposing a foreign language on all the local students and teachers because it might be easier for these foreign students.... I'm speechless. If you even dared do that in the countries I know there'd be a revolution, and rightly so. Universities perform a public service for citizens of a nation. Where is the self-esteem? This is no longer a question of laziness, diligence or flexibility.
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    This is simply amazing for me. Immersion in foreign language class is one thing, but this is quite different. The idea of structuring whole programs and courses at public universities to give preference to foreigners to the point of imposing a foreign language on all the local students and teachers because it might be easier for these foreign students.... I'm speechless. If you even dared do that in the countries I know there'd be a revolution, and rightly so. Universities perform a public service for citizens of a nation. Where is the self-esteem? This is no longer a question of laziness, diligence or flexibility.
    I completely agree: I'd call that self-imposed linguistic imperialism.
     

    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    The idea of structuring whole programs and courses at public universities to give preference to foreigners to the point of imposing a foreign language on all the local students and teachers because it might be easier for these foreign students.... I'm speechless.
    You don't need to. Why wouldn't the Flemish not prefer to do their masters in English at home? It's also not so that you can do all university degrees in English. As far as I know, it's still very limited.
    It's not like we are especially accommodating foreign English speaking students. It's for and by our own choice, for ourselves.
    BTW it's possible Dutch will wither and disappear fairly rapidly as a first language....in favor of English.
    In Dutch, we can't compete with the Dutch. We're always gonna be 'Belgian Dutch' speakers. Or Flemish speakers...But in English, we can compete. ..
     
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    This is simply amazing for me. Immersion in foreign language class is one thing, but this is quite different. The idea of structuring whole programs and courses at public universities to give preference to foreigners to the point of imposing a foreign language on all the local students and teachers because it might be easier for these foreign students.... I'm speechless. If you even dared do that in the countries I know there'd be a revolution, and rightly so. Universities perform a public service for citizens of a nation. Where is the self-esteem? This is no longer a question of laziness, diligence or flexibility.
    This exists in France too. Entire degree programmes are available in English in nearly all the top écoles de commerce (HEC Paris, ESCP, ESSEC...). Sciences Po Paris is thinking about doing the same. And even in French-language degree programmes in the grandes écoles, there are classes that must be taken in English.

    The idea is to give students a head start in the workplace thanks to a degree in English. I don't see what's shocking about it.
     
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    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    How would Erasmus even work if European universities don't give classes in English? It happens in most of Northern, Central and Eastern Europe.

    I think all students in Leuven have the right to answer their questions in Dutch on their exam, even if the exam is in English. But on an oral exam, I would rather speak English. That is much less scary.
    You don't need to. Why wouldn't the Flemish not prefer to do their masters in English at home? It's also not so that you can do all university degrees in English. As far as I know, it's still very limited.
    All engineering programs require you to be able to understand English in Leuven.
     
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    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    Understanding English isn't exactly the point of discussion nor is it remotely a problem. As a student industrial engineer in the sixties, we had a German Handbook that had to be used daily. Now, that was a bit of a problem. Luckily, mostly for numbers and data, not for text.

    But on an oral exam, I would rather speak English. That is much less scary.
    One does the exam in the language it has been given/studied in, no?
    My youngest daughter finished her RUG degree some 7 years ago. I don't think she ever took 1 exam in English. (must ask).
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    This exists in France too. Entire degree programmes are available in English in nearly all the top écoles de commerce (HEC Paris, ESCP, ESSEC...). Sciences Po Paris is thinking about doing the same. And even in French-language degree programmes in the grandes écoles, there are classes that must be taken in English.

    The idea is to give students a head start in the workplace thanks to a degree in English. I don't see what's shocking about it.
    I cannot speak for the business schools but in the two best engineering grandes écoles, where I have worked, English is required at a high level and they cannot graduate without a certain level but the classes having nothing to do with languages are always in French. It's unimaginable for me that professors or students would or could accept it. There are some researchers from South Asia who don't take classes and write in English but they are marginalized.
    In Sciences Po their English classes don't focus on mastering the language but using it so they have packets of material in English they read, discuss, and write about. If that is a wise method is another story.
    I completely agree: I'd call that self-imposed linguistic imperialism.
    Yes. Definitely. :confused:
     
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    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    One does the exam in the language it has been given/studied in, no?
    My youngest daughter finished her RUG degree some 7 years ago. I don't think she ever took 1 exam in English. (must ask).
    Many of those English classes have two names. You can take up the "Dutch" class, but it's still in English, but then you can still answer the exam in English.

    There are posters on my campus that say all students are allowed to ask for Dutch translations of exams. The posters are related to the 1968 affair.
     

    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    Thanks.
    The 1968 affair related to French territorial "academic occupation" of 'Leuven by Walloons & Francophones. ... It was 'their' university in Flanders... I was personally involved as an activist.
    It would be (almost? totally? ) impossible to re-introduce French University degrees in Flanders nowadays.
     
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I cannot speak for the business schools but in the two best engineering grandes écoles, where I have worked, English is required at a high level and they cannot graduate without a certain level but the classes having nothing to do with languages are always in French. It's unimaginable for me that professors or students would or could accept it. There are some researchers from South Asia who don't take classes and write in English but they are marginalized.
    In Sciences Po their English classes don't focus on mastering the language but using it so they have packets of material in English they read, discuss, and write about. If that is a wise method is another story.
    Yes. Definitely. :confused:
    Sciences Po Paris, in fact, now offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees entirely in English so things have moved on since my time (10 years ago).

    It's one of the weaknesses of the French education system - universities have to accept everyone and are constrained by all sorts of rules (including no non-language classes in anything other than French) while the grandes écoles can do what they want. Unsurprisingly, it's graduates of the grandes écoles that end up running French conglomerates, and the government.
     
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