UK, US making a killing (What is the best place to learn English?)

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Cracker Jack, Apr 21, 2006.

  1. Cracker Jack Senior Member

    Hello. Indubitably, English is the most widely-learned and most sought after second language. Figures and data reveal that, this indeed is the lingua franca of globalization. Because of these, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of youngsters and even senior citizens from all over the globe troop to English speaking nations just to learn it by means of total immersion. Summertime is usually peak season for crash courses. Some devote a full season or even a year towards this end.

    In view of this, English institutions and academe in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and even Malta make a killing, making their locus a veritable melting pot fraught with variety of accents. English teaching is a lucrative enterprise for entities like the British Council, etc.

    But my question is - in your country, is the teaching of English as a Second Language sufficient enough obviating studies in Anglophone nations to attain fluency? If so, what are the factors that are helpful in promoting the learning of English outside the four walls of the classroom? I would like to hear from those who come from countries in which the native language is not English and yet the people have good command of it like Scandinavian nations, Benelux, Slavic countries, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Greece, African nations, etc.

    Also, I would like to hear from people from Central and South America where English is fast gaining ground. Or from any spot wherein, a tourist will only need to speak English and enjoy their visit as though they were just visiting US or Uk.

    Thanks a lot.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2015
  2. TRG Senior Member

    english USA
    Is the point of your question that english speaking countries are "profiteering" from the world wide demand for english skills?

    juste curieux.

  3. sandzilg Senior Member

    New York
    But my question is - in your country, is the teaching of English as a Second Language sufficient enough obviating studies in Anglophone nations to attain fluency?

    Language is one of the founding stones of culture. You don't know what you're "talking about" unless you are experiencing that culture. And even so, you never give up your own. What's fluency, anyway? How do you measure that? How well people decode your messages or how well do you manage to deliver them? In any case, you definitely have to live there. There are not that many languages, but there are soooo many different cultures. Language just makes everything a little bit easier. And having a sound grammatical background helps. Definitely. But unless you find yourself curious about why and how and when and where everything is the way is is about that country you are staying in and learning their language, why would you want to be fluent? I know why I do. And it's not about just enough to make business. Or get laid tonight. I want to be moved when reading a classic in its original language. That's what fluency it's about to me. And no, academies and schools can not and will not give you that. But, again, a good academic basis is a good way to start. But in the end, it's up to you. And how humble you are.
  4. Cracker Jack Senior Member

    Thanks a lot TRG and sandzilg for your replies.

    TRG you got it all wrong. That profit thing is just shall we say a metaphor or a reference. While the schools may be earning a great deal (and subsequently, the government - for taxation although probably not much), my main driving point is I wanted to know if citizens from countries I mentioned wherein English is not the official language have to go to US,UK, etc just to learn English.

    I was wondering if they just learned English at home or they needed to undergo total immersion. I am acquainted with some of Europeans who speak English, shall we say with different accents but their English is good.

    I agree with you sandzlig. It is indeed best to read materials in original versions because the the message is delivered the way the author intended. In translated version, the are some minor twists, although the gist is still there. This is true in books as well as in films.
  5. learnerr Senior Member

    Strongly disagree. Reading a classic in its original language may take more ability, and inclination, of unprejudiced understanding ideas and situations than being fluent in a language.
  6. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Indirectly the status as the most popular second language helps exporting Anglophone culture, especially in the form of mass media like television and films. This again helps popularize other parts of ... well ... especially North American culture like fast food chains etc.

    On top of that, most European news media are more likely to show an interview with an American or British politician than with a German politician, even if Germany is a neighbouring country. The reason is that the journalists are more likely to master English well enough to conduct an interview, than in German, Italian or French.

    So of course espicially the USA is profiting from this.
  7. london calling Senior Member

    I have lived in Italy for over thirty years, of which the first 10 years spent teaching English as a foreign language: in my experience both as a teacher and as a learner, you never learn to speak another language fluently if you do not reside in a country in which it is spoken.

    May I just add that again, in my experience, English is often taught very badly in state schools in Italy, which is why many students turn to private language schools for tuition. This is, however, no substitute for living the language in context (and I don't mean study holidays, where all the kids end up hanging around together, each speaking their own brand of foreign English, and rarely interact with native speakers: it is far better to get a job washing dishes in a restaurant or something!:D).
  8. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    This is absolute nonsense. I have never lived permanently in an anglophone country. Nevertheless, lots of people take me for a native speaker. The same goes for one of my sisters. And my other sister is definitely fluent in English, even though her accent is not quite authentic.
    And I would add a lot of the girls I studied with to that list too.
    Why should I not be able to become fluent in a language? I may not have the perfect accent in French but I am fluent in French as well. I have never lived permanently in France either.

    My wife has never lived in an area where Danish is spoken on a general basis - neither as an official language nor by ethnic minorities. I rarely speak Danish with her. In spite of that, she is often mistaken for a native speaker by Danes.

    Just because many teachers have no idea how to teach or coach students to a point where they become proficient in a language - and even though some students do not have the drive to work hard enough to reach that level - does not in any way equal "not possible".


    And to reverse the picture: If "living in the country" should be such a magic formula, why do I meet so many immigrants who have lived in Germany for 20 years who stil can't speak German or only rudimentary German?
  9. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Really? In that case, record yourself reading a text and post it here for us to judge.
  10. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish

    By everybody I mentioned in my mail or only by myself? And why should your judgment be better than that of everybody else that have judged me?

    I tell you what - I once overheard the conversation between my wife and another woman at a party in Denmark. The other woman was a teacher. She tried to convince my wife that one has no chance of learning a foreign language properly if you don't learn it before the age of twelve. About 15 Minutes later in the conversation she asked my wife (who was working as a secretary) if it had not been difficult for her to get used to writing fast on the German keyboard. (which is quertz and not querty like the Danish/English one). Obviously the woman had no clue, that my wife had not moved to Hamburg from Denmark, but from a different place in Germany. Actually, Danish is her third foreign language. She also speaks excellent and fluent English - not only by my judgment, but by the judgment of my Canadian relatives and American friends. With a German accent, OK, but accents do not exclude fluency nor idiomatically correct language. You want an mp3 of that too?
  11. Comrade Momentai

    Comrade Momentai Senior Member

    United States
    In regards to South America, I do not believe English is making headway at all. Even with such a huge Hispanic population in the United States, when said Hispanics visit home they revert to speaking Spanish. Even in major tourist spots, like Cartagena in Colombia, English is very limited. Most of these places prefer to pay foreigners to work for them rather than rely on a local speaking English. I remember once calling up a hostel and begun speaking to them in Spanish. After about two minutes the person apologized and said his Spanish was very poor! I really wish English would gain ground here, but most people still don't see a major use for it.
  12. perpend

    perpend Banned

    American English
    One or two of many things we can't control as mortals are language and weather.

    It may rain mainly on the plain in Spain, but if we plan carefully, we may (native English speakers) be able to conquer Spain like the Moors.

    :D Who am I kidding?

    I might invest in Mandarin or Cantonese, if I wanted to make a killing, but who would want to do that? ;)
  13. eno2

    eno2 Senior Member

    El Hierro de Canarias
    Fantastic that you were able to reach fluency (French English) without living in the country for long. It's possible, with luck and determination. I did the same in Belgium. Nevertheless, I could never reach fluency in New Greek, though I went a few consecutive years on holiday courses in Athens. Why? I didn't hear or speak it before or after. Finally I forgot most of it. On the other hand, I've lived for almost ten years now in Spain and reached a certain level of fluency just by daily contacts and without studying much (only one introductory course 'light' the first year and a little grammar perfection ten years later). My personal take on it is that immersion is in any case the best. It's easier, quicker and more profound. But of course you can become proficient without also.
  14. eno2

    eno2 Senior Member

    El Hierro de Canarias
    Is it really necessary to sound native in order to be proficient? Which native? Australian, US, UK? Canadian? I agree with Sepia on this: "accents do not exclude fluency nor idiomatically correct language". You hear a lot of perfect speakers with an accent on media. Nothing wrong with that. By the way: can't you judge Sepia on his writing?

    Mod note: I removed a reply to a deleted post.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2015
  15. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    To be fair, eno2, there were two claims made: 1) Sepia is fluent in English, and 2) Sepia is often mistaken for a native speaker by others. I think Pedro is referring to the second claim.

    I agree with you that fluency doesn't require a native accent, but it is difficult to imagine that many people could adopt a perfect native accent without ever having lived in a country where the target language is the native language. I'm sure it's possible but it would be rare. Some people can mimic accents beautifully just by listening to them on TV and in films. I've heard some pretty impressive native-sounding accents on YouTube from Brits.
    Last edited: May 2, 2015
  16. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    + there is a number of Australian actors that do a very good job of impersonating Americans in TV-series and movies.

    The whole "total immersion thing" in a foreign culture is great as long as that is not the only thing you base your learning on - I mean, the myth that "you just need to live in the country where they speak the language ..." etc. Lots of people do that and are still not very good at speaking the language even after 20 years.

    But the assumption that there are only two places to learn a language - in a foreign country and in a school - is obviously very widespread. I don't know why. Of course, if you only depend on what your teacher teaches you ... well, then it is true, that is not going to work. But even in the pre-Internet, pre-satellite television age there were possibilities when you looked for them. When I learned French, I had very little money, a SW/LW radio, two cassette recorders and a library card. The radio was tuned on France Inter most of the time - sometimes even at night while I was sleeping. You don't really learn in your sleep, but it influences your pronunciation. I got books and magazines from the library, went to the cinema whenever there was a French film, developed my own training methods and every time I felt I needed some practical training I went to a bar that was the hangout for a lot of nice young and good looking guys from Tunisia. In any larger city in Europe you can find people who speak the languages that would normally be top of your list. You just have to use your imagination and go look for them ... With more "exotic" languages like, say Maltese, it may be a problem, but still not impossible ...
    I always brought a pad and wrote down every word that I had needed but didn't know in French, every point where I wasn't sure of the grammar etc. On the next day I evaluated it and made it part of my training programme for the next days to come. When I was through, I went and hung out in that bar again over one beer for the whole evening, chatted with them about the bike races and stuff ...

    So this has nothing to do with luck - it is all about having a logical, systematic and efficient way of studying and seeking your information.
  17. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    This is not absolute nonsense, but this is a gross oversimplification. There are many people that have learned another language fluently not residing in another country. And by fluently I don't mean "speaking in a way that you can be taken for a native" but speaking correctly in respect to pronunciation, prosody, vocabulary, grammar, syntax and idiomacy, in a way that your speech is easily and fully understood by the natives, and does not make them smile of your mistakes".
    On the other hand, living in another country doesn't give you any certainty that you'll learn the language fluently.

    By the way, I attend often international meetings with English as working language, and there are very few people speaking really fluent English among participants.
  18. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Gross oversimplifications do not make much sense to me either. I find them rather "nonsensical" as well.

    But sure you, can have a very authentic pronunciation and lousy in grammar and vice versa. However, ther ARE limits to how bad your grammar can be and still be taken for a native speaker. Sure, it doesn't have to be perfect - you just have to be as good as the average Joe ... or simply just fit in. What French is concerned - somebody in this forum once told that his French co-students were annoyed because he used the passé simple in spoken language. Actually there is nothing wrong with doing that, but maybe on a different social level. You are not likely to get top grades in a French school if you cannot use it. But you can easily get away with never using it in spoken language, without anyone taking notice.
  19. AmaryllisBunny

    AmaryllisBunny Senior Member

    I know one person who can do this. However, it is not regarding English, but French. She is a professor of "Francophonie" from Quebec, who is able to perfectly imitate the standard French accent from France, which is worlds apart. This may not exactly be the same phenomenon, but it is very close to it.
  20. littlepond Senior Member

    For Indians at least, for whom English is an 'own' language now and not a British language, no one ever thinks of living in the US or the UK to perfect English: too many Indians speak very good English, with of course the Indian accents (there is no one Indian accent, hence plural). Living in India, esp. in urban India and esp. if you are going anywhere for education beyond school, means automatic immersion: even if you are not doing that, cricket matches' commentaries, newspapers, billboards, etc., ensure a partial immersion for the remaining.

    I agree completely, from own personal experience (re: French). Learning and speaking well a language does not require at all living in a particular country.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 18, 2015
  21. funnyhat Senior Member

    Michigan, USA
    American English
    All the more so nowadays when, thanks to the internet, you can often find speakers of that language who live in your area. In the United States, for example, there are Meetup groups all over the country that speak various languages. I know that there are French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese and Japanese-speaking groups within a short drive of my home, and there are probably others I'm not aware of.

    That said, it's pretty fun and fulfilling to be able to live in a country where your second language is spoken.

Share This Page