Back in the day, when I was at school in England (this was a long time ago!) we all had to learn to speak French. This was mainly because France is the UK’s nearest neighbour and, consequently, its traditional enemy. In my school no one studied German or Spanish. But many boys, when they reached the last two years of their education, did put time and effort into two “dead” languages- Latin and Classical Greek. Looking back, it’s difficult to imagine why the school thought that learning languages that no one had actually spoken in real life for more than 2000 years was a good idea.
Over the next 5 decades (I told you that this happened long ago) the pattern of language education in the UK has changed. Broadly speaking there has been a steady decline in the numbers of British children studying any foreign language at all. German and Spanish have been encouraged, French is still the most taught language, and the dead languages have pretty well disappeared, but children seem not to feel that learning foreign languages is a good use of their time.
The reason for the decline is most likely two-fold. First, there’s a growing perception that “everyone speaks English”, so it’s better to spend your time doing other things. Even when an English person in Europe tries to speak the local language, chances are that the person they’re talking to will be eager to reply in English, so as to practise their own skills! And secondly, language learning is hard work, and children are not naturally drawn to hard work.
But I have been reading an article on the BBC website about a town in England with a growing enthusiasm, in one school at least, for teaching Mandarin Chinese. It does seem odd that one of the world’s most difficult “foreign” languages should see growing enthusiasm in one of England’s most “English” small towns. I’m guessing that it reflects China’s recent emergence on the global stage, and a sense of mystery about the country, its people, and the long-term impact of its new prosperity.
It shouldn’t be based on the thought that Mandarin will ever be a global language. It simply takes too many years’ full time study to achieve a working fluency in this complex, tonal tongue.
China’s people certainly understand that English is the tool they need in the international arena. In fact there are said to be more Chinese people learning English, than there are native English speakers in the entire world.
Now, English is absolutely the most studied international language in Indonesia. And like all foreign languages it takes effort to learn to speak it well. But AIM is one language school that really makes sure that the effort you have to make will get the fastest results. No gimmicks, no “special offers”, no unrealistic promises. Just great teaching, a great atmosphere, and growing numbers of former students working and studying abroad, and doing globally connected jobs in Indonesia.