We no speak americano

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Let me write something off the record… during the last few days the spanish media has been talking about a very important topic nowadays. A couple of articles, one by the Huffington Post and other by El Confidencial, are creating some discussions between the spaniards. Why? Because we (the spaniards) don’t speak English, even though we start studying the language at the age of three.

In the first one, Raúl Fernández, professor in the Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznan, says our problem is based on our education system, namely our English professors don’t have a proper level of the language to teach it. Consider someone with a B2 level and a high qualification(degree) title is able to get into the public education. For example, a lawyer who reached a B2 in English can be an English professor or teacher.

Well, to be honest I never considered that chance like a problem. I grew up in a country where you can be very proud of your B2 – I will deal with this in more detail later. It is so much so that the university where I used to study is trying hard to give B1 titles to the students before they finish their degrees, and they still think that’s too difficult… Once I am living abroad for a long time I notice I need to improve a lot if I want to compete with europeans students – time will say.

B1 Level

Now let’s check quickly the article by El Confidencial. “We are not allow to be waiters in London. We don’t speak English” says the title. And this is it. Hundreds, maybe thousands of young people have left the country heading London. There they try to get a job, even when conditions and salary are awful just because they are able to improve their English. Engineers, lawyers, musicians, psychologists… serving in restaurants. But they don’t want us anymore because our language skills are quite poor.

Yet, they haven’t spoke about what I consider the two main problems: expectations and embarrassment.

  • Expectations or conformism refers to goals, to limits and success that a student can achieve. We are not genetically weaker than the rest of the europeans, we are not silly or retarded. It is true that I have been studying English since I was three years old, but it is also true that my A+ marks would not have been A+ in another environment.Then the problem are not the students or the professors, our fault is to not ask more to ourselves. We did not and we do not care if our knowledge is not enough, all that matters is what our marks say.If we want to improve we will need to rise the requirements and motivate the educators. Unfortunately, when Education suffers cuts of 2.000 millions euros this task seems too hard to me…
  • Embarrassment is all about our culture. English phonetics are not familiar at all to the spaniards as it is to the Germans for example, so every time a student tries to pronounce properly a word the rest of the class just starts laughing. So the only feedback that student has is embarrassment, will you keep trying when 29 more students are laughing at you? I don’t think so.

Fortunately young people is are starting to notice how difficult, tough and critical the situation is and our behavior facing language studies will change soon. It is up to us…

ps: feel free to correct my grammar mistakes.