Our survey this week was about speaking a foreign language because we wanted to know which language children would most like to speak fluently. Spanish topped the poll with nearly 33% of the vote but French came a close second with just over 29%.
Mandarin Chinese lagged behind with just over 15% whilst German and Italian brought up the rear with around 11% each.
If you don’t see the need to speak a foreign language then you might change your mind after reading the page at Fluent in 3 Months where Benny (who calls himself the “Irish Polyglot”) gives you 12 excellent reasons why you should learn a foreign language. By the way, I didn’t know what a polyglot was but a Google search revealed that it is “a person who knows and is able to use several languages”!
A “Native Speaker” is a person who has spoken the language from earliest childhood – that language is said to be the person’s first language.
In our survey we gave our students a choice of 5 languages (Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, German, French and Italian) and you might be surprised to learn that if you spoke ALL of them you would only know the first language of about a quarter of the world’s population. What then do the rest of them speak?
Now would be a good time to remind ourselves that there are lots and lots of people in Africa, India, Russia, Portugal, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, etc. etc. The purple area in the graph opposite shows the proportion of people who speak English as their first language whilst the light blue area shows the remainder of the world population that don’t speak ANY of the six languages mentioned above as their first language. All of which goes to show just what a huge place the world is!
Why not take a quick look at this Wikipedia page to get a flavour of just how many languages there are.
The same Wiki page shows the number of people who speak different second languages and the figures acknowledge that English is the most popular language of choice for people in non-English speaking countries. Did you know that English is the “Language of Flight” and that every airline pilot, whatever their nationality, is obliged to have a knowledge of English?
Learning to speak a language fluently is a sizeable commitment so it’s important to give the subject some serious thought before you begin. If you are wanting to learn mainly for leisure then try the quiz on the page at Joy of Languages.
On the other hand you might have an eye on your future career and are wondering which language might be the most valuable to you. In this case it’s well worthwhile reading through the page at Bilingua to get some pointers in the right direction.
The survey question this week was “If you could speak a foreign language fluently, which of these would it be?” and these are the results from 1,282 children: