Polyglotism – or the ability to converse in more than one language, in the not so distant past used to be the preserve of the few. If you were to go back to, say, the 1940’s, Grammar and Public School pupils were put through their paces with the classical languages; Latin and Greek and many a schoolboy from that time will probably still remember trawling through complex verb conjugations by rote. Of the modern languages, at that time, French was the most commonly taught.
Coming forward into the 1970’s, the teaching of modern languages started to be introduced into the syllabus of all schools, until today we see that French, German and Spanish are commonly offered as a subject option in every school.
This spread in language tuition has also, over time, spread to the general public. In the 1960’s there were weekly German and French courses on the BBC every Sunday morning and this has now expanded to such offerings as Linguaphone’s comprehensive language courses and language classes being held in most local communities.
Although the option to study other languages is now widely offered, should we take up the chance to learn other languages is it a must nowadays?
Well, the answer used to be that “unless you want to stay at home, you had best learn another language”, but nowadays even that does not stand up.
In a typical office environment one might easily come across a document from a foreign client or increasingly from an overseas branch of ones own company. This is all the more likely in a major City like, say, London, a hub of international trade and if you lack the linguistic skills for even a cursory translation, you will have to fall back upon one of the many language translation agencies in London, which have sprung up almost in attestation to our own general lack of linguistic acumen.
Likewise, one might very well be working with a colleague from say, Germany, whose English might be good, but who will at sometime struggle; even a few words in German could very well help things along. If you want to get by, even at home, you increasingly need to at least be acquainted with another language.
What about needing another language whilst abroad?
Well, it would seem to make perfect sense to have some knowledge of a country that you are visiting and even in areas where it is commonly thought that the locals would speak English…let’s take Majorca as an example.
Majorca is a very popular destination with British holidaymakers. In the biggest resorts, the staff, do in fact, mostly speak English but if you wander away from these areas, even to the Capital Palma, you will be hard pressed to get along anywhere without some ability in Spanish.