Why bother learning a language when Everyone in the world is learning English?

It seems that wherever I go, people always want to practice their english with me. In Europe, most countries are learning to speak english. All but 4 countries in Europe are rated as having moderate-very high English proficiency.

Obviously, the Dutch are the best english speakers in Europe: They are, unsurprisingly, the most eager to run away from their native language.

I asked a question about learning Czech on a Czech youtube channel and here is the answer I got from a Czech person.

“English as a universal second language is already a reality in Europe. Which is great for especially smaller nations like czechs, dutch, danish etc. as finally there is no problem to communicate …
and honestly no need to learn french or any other obscure language if u really do not want to.”

He also said that Czech is now basically like Scandinavia where everyone speaks english.

I love learning languages and I know why I do it, but why do you? Will there be time where everyone just automatically learns english as their second language or is their still practical value to it??

Well, for one, there are more places to go than Europe. English is perhaps more of a global lingua franca than some past contenders, but it’s probably not nearly as widely and as well spoken everywhere as in the limited areas that you mention.

I haven’t been everywhere in Europe but in my experience, it’s almost impossible to communicate in English in Italy, Greece, Spain, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia and Poland.

I did not have that experience in the Czech Republic outside of Prague. They don’t speak English lol.

I believe there is a difference between leisure and need. There is places in the world where speak English is no longer an option and has become a necessity, in studies, at work.

On the other hand, there are people like me who enjoy the journey to learn a new language, discover new cultures, new people, visiting the countries where those languages are spoken. It is definitely a rewarding adventure.

We are already living in the age of speak English is no longer an option for youngers and people do not know why they learn, but simply because they heard their parents saying that 'it is something important"

I believe younger (Without generalizing) are walking with wide eyes, not knowing where they are going, with no personality and ambition for different languages.

Hmmm, I wonder how they measure these proficiency ratings. I’m surprised about Poland because it is ranked the same as Germany on this list. Also, If I visit Prague I certainly want to go somewhere other than the main tourist drag from the Charles. bridge and town square

They measured it with test scores (not sure which test exactly). Maybe I was simply unlucky for an entire week but Poland was really tough outside of touristy areas. They also put Japan higher than Turkey which is laughable. Turks speak really good English.

I mean, Japan is awful at English despite 8 years of required schooling. I’m sure in Turkey it probably gets pretty bad East of Istanbul.

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it’s possible. let’s ask ilearnlang lol!

“…It seems that wherever I go, people always want to practice their english with me. In Europe, most countries are learning to speak english…”

Right. And it isn’t a level playing field either: I’m convinced that it’s one helluva lot easier - in relative terms - for the native speaker of Czech, German, Polish, etc to get to a working fluency in English, than it is for the English speaker to attain fluency in those languages. Of course, English can hardly be without its difficulties for learners. But any language with no genders, limited case inflections, no noun-adjective agreements, etc, is just inherently more learner-friendly than more complex tongues. (I’ve been dabbling in learning Russian on and off for 2 or 3 years, and Farsi for about 5 weeks. I really do believe I have made as much progress in Farsi in those 5 weeks!)

As for the wider question “why bother learning a language?”, I think one has to distinguish between some different scenarios here.

It does depend on the part of the world we are talking about, of course. For an English speaker who is just travelling in Europe, any purely practical and utilitarian benefits of knowing the local language are probably massively outweighed by the hassle and effort of learning. One can also do high level business and politics in Europe without knowing foreign languages, because things will be conducted in English. That’s just the way it is - for better or for worse.

How about long term residents in a country? In some European countries, at least, one could probably get by well enough for years without learning the language. However, it will always be advantageous for residents to learn it. If you don’t, you will always be operating through an interface, so to speak. You will always be reliant on the goodwill of interlocutors - something which can vanish. If you need help in complicated bureaucratic contexts, for example, or if you are complaining about something, people may suddenly become much less keen to speak English! More generally, a person would just be partly ‘unplugged’ from daily life. He/she wouldn’t be able to read headlines, signs, billboards, menus, etc; wouldn’t be immediately able to overhear and understand what people round and about are saying. In an emergency that could even become a matter of life or death. (If you come out of a subway station in a city centre, and people are all talking about someone running amok with a gun or a knife, it would be kind of good to know about it sooner rather than later! :-0)

People who absolutely need to learn a language are those with a personal or professional interest of some kind which involves primary source research. For example: nobody would be taken remotely seriously by academia, publishing, or any serious branch of the media as an expert in Spanish literature or history unless he or she could read Spanish. Likewise, nobody could be an expert political commentator on German affairs without understanding German, and so on.

I completely agree with you about living in a country. I wouldn’t want to live somewhere and not speak the language (except maybe for holland). My trips to Germany are much more enjoyable now being able to speak and understand some German than when I first went as a kid and didn’t know anything.

I also wanted to add that when I was in Guatemala… NOBODY spoke english in guatemala city.

Certainly more and more Europeans are becoming proficient in English and this number will only increase as children start their English journey very early now. Nevertheless, the fact that people are learning English doesn’t imply that they can communicate well. Some of them only achieve a passive level. And really a lot of people, while they manage to communicate with other non-native speakers, they fail to understand natives unless they deliberately slow down.
As for Poland, it is true we have improved our English skills a lot. However, if you call a random Polish telephone number, chances that you find a fluent and confident interlocutor who understands everything you say are really low:) Most probably you will scare him away:)
If you ever visit Czech Republic, I still recommend you to learn some basic Czech phrases beforehand:) Otherwise, even in Prague you will be forced to use some body language :slight_smile: Many grocers don’t speak English.


your not going to hear that much english in central america even in big metropolitan areas you might not even hear spanish as a first language depending on the area you go might hear quechua or aymara

i think it’s lazy to live in acountry for a period of time and not try to speak the language i hear about these british people living in enclaves in spain and france where only english isspokenby expats it reminds me of little havana in miami where you have these people that only speak spanish after living there for years

It boils down to the literature and culture for me. Of course, I love trying to speak in the languages that I’m constantly learning. Yet the pleasure of reading in those languages is divine.

On a long visit to South Korea in 2013, I met a group of approximately seven high school girls while visiting an old folk village. They saw me and rushed in to practice their English. “Hello! How are you? Where are you from? Why are you here? How long are you here? Why here? Is this your husband? How old are you? etc.” It was fine with me. It was a lot of fun. I engaged them all. After about ten minutes or so, they all switched to Korean. That was when they helped me out in my poorly spoken Korean. It was so much fun meeting and chatting with those young ladies.

When I would take a stroll through the parks, and on my daily morning routing of exercising in the park, many senior citizens would come up to me and speak in Korean. One older man even showed me how to massage my back on a tree. (Yes, I’m a tree hugger.) In restaurants, at temples, I had to rely on the little Korean that I knew at the time. Also, in those ‘mom and pop’ stores, no one spoke English. I had a great time being taught how to count my change in Korean, and getting free candy or fruit as a gesture of thanks!

My husband and I rented a car. We drove to so many places. I was not in the least bit invited to speak in English. Trying to speak in a language that you are not fluent in is physically exhausting. However tiring, it is a cool experience. I had a nice time struggling.

Not everyone is learning, or cares to learn, English. I stayed in Suncheon. No one spoke in English, except those wonderful teenagers, to or with me. I think that if you go outside of the popular tourist haunts, you will truly have to sink, or swim in the foreign language.

Personally, I don’t mind if people want to speak in English. It can be a way to get relatively close to the person and their native language. You have to welcome it, you have to share. In the country of your choice, you may talk in English in some situations, but eventually, you will have a chance to speak in their native tongue. Sooner or later they tire out. Sooner or later, you will tire out. Speaking in a foreign language is awesome, but physically taxing.

When I go to Europe in a couple of years, I will welcome all and sundry to practice their English with me. I really don’t care. Why would I, I love my native tongue! I won’t use tricks to avoid it. It simply does not matter to me. I will deal with the situation however it presents itself because I know that I will get the chance to speak in French, in Italian, and in Spanish when the opportunity presents itself.

Ultimately, people love speaking in their native tongue. It is a safe, comfortable, and beautiful place. But just when you least expect it, you will have to speak in the language of the country you are visiting, working, etc.

Nobody owes you anything because you studied hard; nobody has to cater to your hard won language skills. Just go with the flow and you will experience heaven in all facets of your journey.

Edit: correction —> *massage :slight_smile:


“…Nobody owes you anything because you studied hard; nobody has to cater to your hard won language skills…”

Yeah, but that’s a double-edged sword! How much do you owe it to them to speak English? :stuck_out_tongue:

English is not learner friendly. Many people think so but they know people who have learn it and they have some pre-exposure, so it doesn’t sound so alien but it’s a misunderstanding, if someone decided to learn English without ever having read publicity catchphrases or song lyrics, just as we western Europeans approach, say Russian or Czech, s/he would be taken aback by its irregularity.
I remember my first approach to English, as a teenager. I’d been learning French at school and I don’t think we had so much exposure to English back then. I thought it would be impossible to learn it.
I think most people fixate too much on morphological complexity when assessing the “difficulty” of learning a language. In my opinion, that is a big mistake. Learning the grammar takes a predictable amount of time and, even if you sometimes get it wrong, it doesn’t preclude understanding in most cases.
Anyone who has learned a language to an advanced level knows that learning vocabulary takes most of the time.
In English you have to learn separately the spelling and pronunciation of each word, effectively doubling the learning load plus English makes up for the comparative lack of morphology by increasing the number of word families and then English has a strong tendency to borrow foreign words indiscriminately. The result is a completely irregular vocabulary.
The fact that people all over the world actually learn it and then go on to believe that it’s comparatively “easy” is testimony to how good human beings are learning something complex when we feel that we really have to.

It is very hard for me to know how much you can rely on English when travelling around Spain. I guess it varies a lot. Let me just share my last piece of experience in that regard.
I was returning from a trip to Ukraine. My flight landed in Madrid. It so happens that right now the subway line that takes you to and from the airport is closed. I was taking the replacement bus when a couple of young people asked the bus driver in English whether this was the bus to the center, when to stop, how much it cost (it was free) and so on.
It was really funny to see the driver’s face: something like “oh my God. What do I do now?” I stepped in and explained to the couple.
Notice, this was Madrid, near the airport, not some backwater place. By the way, I am ready to bet my leg that you wouldn’t be able to buy a single beer + tapa in English in my “barrio” (Northern part of Granada)

Fair point.

(I wouldn’t mind betting my last pair of boots that a bus driver in Sweden or Holland would have silky smooth English skills, however :-P)

Well I guess they’d at least be able to understand since citizens of both those countries tend to watch movies in the original English.


True, you have a valid point. English speakers don’t owe anything either. With all due respect, I am willing to give my time, and to share my knowledge. In my experience, I got 90 times more Korean than I gave of 10% English. I really did not expect that to happen. Just travel with a generous heart, the rewards are greater.


Hi, finally I am back. :slight_smile:

I don’t know how they measure the profiency but if Poland, Hungaria, Romania, Serbia etc. are considered moderate or high level, they should put Turkey in this category too. I know very well how the Greeks, Romanians or Russians speak English.

In Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya, Muğla and İzmir people can speak English, however you can’t communicate if you can’t speak Turkish even in İstanbul.

Edit: I mean, only well-educated professionals can speak English in these cities.