Britons have always had a flare for the foreign. It was Britons who established an empire that spanned a quarter of the globe. It was Britons who swam across the channel, explored the Pacific and Antarctica and climbed Everest. Great Britain gave the world: capitalism and free trade, abolished slavery and by itself or with allies smashed tyrannies that threatened the globe starting from Philip II on down through Louis XIV to Napoleon to the Kaiser to Hitler to the USSR. And Britain is still Great today, the PM’s small island speech I particular found inspiring. http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130906140737-146036479–we-are-very-proud-of-everything-we-do-as-a-small-island?trk=mp-reader-card
Great Britain also gave the world its first global language since Latin, English. However, today while the world is learning to speak English, Britons are finding that it is useful to learn another language, especially for business or travel and as people continue to immigrate to the UK and the world continues to globalise. Rosetta Stone did a comprehensive and marvelous study on those learning and who know languages other than English in the UK, today for a country that get maligned for not being their “sophisticated” neighbours in Europe, 28% speak some other language. And there are many more very interesting facts contained in the study, it is attached as a infographic to this blog. http://www.rosettastone.co.uk/blog/infographic-what-can-a-second-language-do-for-you/
America too, like the Great Britain has traditionally an aversion to learning foreign languages. I must confess that although I have lived in the American southwest all my life, been to Mexico four times, spent a month in Spain and taken 3 or 4 years of Spanish in school I still cannot speak the language, or any other language for that matter. However, facts show 20% of Americans are at least billingual. And while most Britons and Americans who are billingual come from backgrounds where English is the second language, it is often an advantage in jobs and opportunities. http://livingbilingual.com/2013/05/28/exactly-how-many-people-are-bilingual/
Nevertheless, I do emphasise it is important to remember that the US and UK are English speaking countries first, and it is important that those who come to our countries learn English; if not just to become more assimilated but to increase their own job prospects and avoid “ghettoisation” of their neighbourhooods. Furthermore, people forget there is great diversity in the UK and US in our own language. There are hundreds if not thousands of different accents in the UK; here is a wonderful link that can let you hear the differences. http://sounds.bl.uk/Sound-Maps/Accents-and-dialects The US too, has many accents, if you haven’t heard them before, here is a good map of the different American accents: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/dialect-maps_n_3395819.html
So what foreign languages do you speak? Do you wish you know more? And which accent do you have, is it more common or more obscure?