Incapable of learning languages?

Each year thousands of Spanish people travel to the United Kingdom in order to learn English and almost reciprocally, the British visit Spain or sometimes Latin America to become acquainted with the Castilian language. However, the problems that occur for many when learning the other language do not seem to diminish. On the 27th of  January a series of conferences on the matter will begin.

Since the second half of the 20th Century the English language has been going through a curious evolution. The most international lenguage in the world is losing influence as a mother tongue throughout the world (it is estimated that in 2050 only 5% of the world population will have English as their mother tongue), but, on the other hand, it is growing as the second most spoken language and it is calculated that in this sense the number of speakers will grow to 1,250 million by the middle of this century. On the other hand, the Spanish language continues to grow and has positioned itself as the second language with more students in the UK.

In Spain, English has been studied in the classroom since the 1970s, quite recently compared with other European countries, and although the Spanish educative system makes this language a compulsory subject amongst others, which students have to dedicate more time to during their schooling period, the large majority of cultural material imported from the Anglo-Saxon world, for example cinematic films, is dubbed into Spanish.

Not the same thing happens in countries like Holland, Sweden, Portugal or Poland, where film dubbing is not used as an option and the exposure of English to young children is far greater. For this reason, as well as for linguistic motives, the Spanish find it more difficult to learn English than their aforementioned European neighbours.

Although the UK has increased its interest in Castilian over the past few years, the fact that English is the world’s “official” language dissuades part of its population from learning foreign languages. In this context, the Cervantes Institute of London will hold next 27th of January its first series of ‘Lingüística blanda’ (weak linguistics) conferences: English and Spanish people, incapable of learning a language?’ During the conference various issues shall be laid out on the table, such as the real or mythic difficulty, as much for Spanish speakers as for English speakers, to learn foreign languages and the causes.

The meeting will be chaired by the Education Advisor for the UK and Ireland, Jesús Fernández González of the Spanish Embassy in the UK, along with the participation of Lid King, ex member of the National Director for Languages and promoter of the National Languages Strategy for England. King is author of numerous publications and has represented the UK in the European Union and in the European Council. Justin Vollmer, associate director of the International House of London, will also be present.

The conference will be in Spanish with simultaneous translation.

Information: 27th of January. 18.30 hours. Instituto Cervantes in London. 102 Eaton Square. SW1W 9AN.

(Traducido por Piers Jarvis –

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