Anyone who knows me knows that I love learning foreign languages. I am a Spanish and French major and I have taken a couple of Brazilian Portuguese classes. In high school, I tried teaching myself some Japanese. I aspire to be a polyglot like Benny Lewis or Tim Doner.
When I started learning languages, fluency (whatever that even is) felt very far away and almost unattainable. I looked at people from other countries who start learning English at a very young age. I thought to myself, “What does it matter if I know English as a first language? I could have grown up in Norway and been fluent in English by now and spoke another language natively.” I really resented speaking English as a native language but I was resenting the wrong thing. I should have been resenting how our school system forces teachers to teach foreign languages.
After having studied three romance languages to the point of being at least conversational, English brought something different to the table. It was unique; it had a different sound and just wasn’t a romance language. But that isn’t the only reason why I started to appreciate it.
My newfound appreciation of English mostly came from my travels. This school year, I am studying abroad. I spent my last semester in Spain and right now I am currently studying in France. I have traveled to other countries like Portugal, Italy, Morocco, and Belgium. One of my purposes for being abroad is to be able to speak better Spanish and French. However, it doesn’t take long for people to find out I am a native English speaker and start speaking to me in English instead of Spanish or French. As frustrating as that can be, I also realize it is a blessing.
Why are people even speaking to me in English in the first place?
It very well could be that people think they are helping me out by speaking to me in English, but when I see the glow they have as they try to speak English, I think they have an alternative reason for using English. English is a very important language in the world whether it is for business and work or even something fun like traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language. Sometimes the only common language between you and somebody else is English. I have started to count myself as fortunate for being able to speak English natively. I already know one of the most important languages in the world and I didn’t have to put a lot of effort into learning it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am an advocate for language-learning and I think languages are very important for all aspects of life. I just no longer resent being from a country where English is the dominant language. I think the United States needs to get more on top of language-learning, but that won’t stop me from my newfound love for my first language.