Recently, I have had a little bit of time to myself – and have spent the last couple of weeks in a small Swedish town called Storvreta with my girlfriend. In an effort to fit into my surroundings and try to understand what the hell my Girlfriend is saying on the phone, I have been learning to speak the native tongue. Despite Duolingo telling me I’m now 32% fluent in Swedish, I’ve still just managed to order an americano without milk, YUK!
In Sweden, it is perfectly acceptable to speak English; roughly 90% of Swedish of the population have a good basic understanding of the English language. What supports this is that English is compulsory within the education system and taught between the ages of 12-15. So far I have found that the swede’s capability to speak perfect English provides certain challenges to learning Swedish. Basically, every time I get in a pickle I just say “Talar du Engelska?” (We both know the answer, but saying it makes me feel a little better).
Learning a new language is not an easy task, and requires patience and persistence. In the past three years, I have met some wonderful friends from all around the globe, some that speak 3 and above languages. It makes me feel a little selfish, to go on my travels, to other countries and simply expect others to speak my language, despite roughly 25% of the earth’s population knowing basic English. Spending a considerable amount of time in a new country makes me truly appreciate that it is a true talent to be bilingual.
Perhaps there isn’t enough focus on this within England’s education system? I mean sure I was taught basic German, but it never felt like an important subject. Maybe the whole egoistic view “English is the most important language”, has precedent within education – and therefore ,focus is put on the three main subjects of English, Maths, and Science. Being bilingual is not just useful for social factors like making friends and buying coffee in Sweden, but will also provide a greater competitive advantage whilst seeking employment opportunities, particularly in global companies. As Brexit appears and Great Britain has to form new international alliances alone, the future brings together a more globalised world, I personally think there is great importance in prioritising language skills and increasing awareness of the free tools available to learn a language.
Before I leave you, I want to make you aware of the fantastic free language tool I am learning called Duolingo. With other 27 languages to learn from and free access to lessons, tests, and a global community, it’s certainly worth using! I shall follow up with a few posts on the process of my new language development! – Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to understand those phone calls!