In this week’s 6 Minute English – Learn a thousand foreign words with transcript video:
British people are lazy linguists – they don’t tend to learn foreign languages. A campaign is now encouraging everyone in the UK to learn at least 1,000 words of another language.
The 1,000 Words Campaign follows concerns that the country is losing out on international trade and jobs because of poor language skills.
Rob and Finn discuss the benefits of learning a new language and look at vocabulary to do with becoming a linguist.
This week’s question:
Which is the second most spoken language in England? Is it:
Rob: Hello I’m Rob. Welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m joined today by Finn. Hi Finn.
Finn: Hi Rob – or should I say ‘ni hao’ Rob?
Rob: Your Chinese is very good Finn but I wonder how many more Spanish words you know? 1,000 perhaps?
Finn: (In Chinese: “Not really, I just know a little…”)
Rob: Now you’re just showing off! Not being able to speak a foreign language is a bit of a British trait – or a particular British characteristic. We’re not very good at it although Finn is an exception, he can speak many foreign languages, can’t you?
Finn: Not that many – a bit of German, some French, Polish a little, Chinese of course, Hokkien, a bit of Japanese…
Rob: I’m impressed Finn. Well now the rest of us Brits are being encouraged to learn at least 1,000 words of another language. We’ll talk more about that soon but before I start learning my new words, how about a question Finn?
Finn: Très bien!
Rob: Do you know which is the second most spoken language in England? Is it:
Finn: I think I know this one, Rob. I’m going to say a) Polish.
Rob: I’ll let you know the answer at the end of programme. So, as I mentioned, the British are generally considered to be lazy linguists – they just don’t bother to learn another language.
Finn: I guess the main reason is that when British people travel around the world they find that English is spoken almost everywhere – so they get by – they survive on using their native language.
Rob: I think, in the past, the education system was also to blame. Learning a foreign language was not compulsory – it didn’t have to be studied – when I went to school, we didn’t have to study languages to exam level – so I took the easy option and studied photography instead of French! I regret it now. But that wasn’t the same for you Finn?
Finn: At first I didn’t really like it but you know, I love words, and then one day I discovered the Chinese language and thought this was fascinating, and it’s a key to a whole new culture.
Rob: Well recently a campaign was launched for those of us who didn’t share your enthusiasm or have the opportunity to learn another language. The 1,000 Words campaign is encouraging everyone in the UK to learn at least 1,000 words of another language. It hopes to help Britain increase international trade.
Finn: The group say a vocabulary of 1,000 words would allow a speaker to hold a simple conversation. It sounds like a good idea.
Rob: Si! Let’s hear from the former England footballer and TV presenter, Gary Lineker, who is supporting the campaign. Can you hear what the three things he says learning another language gives you?
I think it gives you self-satisfaction and self-esteem if you can speak another language when you’re travelling. I think it also gives you an edge in a lot of different areas in the workplace, not just football.
Finn: So Gary Lineker says there are three things it gives you; it gives you self-satisfaction, firstly. He means you feel good about learning a new skill. But it can have negative meaning – self-satisfaction – that you are smug or pleased with yourself. I don’t think he means that here though.
Rob: He also says it improves self-esteem – so you feel good about yourself and it boosts your confidence. Imagine going on holiday to Spain and being able to converse with – speak to – the locals.
Finn: It feels good! And he also mentioned the economic benefits of speaking another language; it gives you the edge in the workplace. That means it gives you an advantage, especially if you are dealing with foreign companies.
Rob: It shows politeness and respect for other people by showing you have made an effort.
Finn: It’s something another footballer, Gareth Bale, has tried to do. Last year he signed to Real Madrid so he tried to master – or to be very good at – speaking Spanish so he could talk to his fans. This is how he got on:
(In Spanish: It is a dream to play for Real Madrid. Thank you.)
Rob: Impressive – I think he was saying it was his dream to play for Real Madrid.
Finn: Your Spanish is very impressive too Rob. For Gareth Bale, speaking Spanish will help him fit in – perhaps make him more accepted by his teammates and his fans.
Rob: But Finn, I have a dilemma. There are so many languages in the world, which one should I learn first?
Finn: Maybe you should start with the UK’s second most spoken language?
Rob: Yes, the question I posed earlier was: what is Britain’s second most spoken language.
Finn: I said Polish.
Rob: And you are right. According to the 2011 census, the answer is Polish. The census also found over 104 different languages are spoken in the UK. Before we go, could you remind us of some of the English words we’ve heard today?
Finn: We heard:
to get by
to converse with
to give you the edge
Rob: Danke schön, Finn.
Finn: Bitte schön!
Rob: Thanks Finn. Well that’s it for this programme. Please join us soon again for 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English.
Vocabulary and definitions
linguists: people who study foreign languages or speak them very well
native language: language of a person’s home country
to get by: to just have or know enough to do what you need to do
compulsory: must be done
self-esteem: confidence in your value and in what you can do
to converse with: to have a conversation with
to give you the edge: to have an advantage
to master: to learn how to do something very well
to fit in: to feel like you belong to a group of people and are accepted by them
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