A question regarding language...

I emailed this question to Cecil already but just incase he doesn’t answer it maybe somebody out there can…

As an Englishman and an avid football (soccer) fan, I watch many pre and post game interviews involving foreign players. Recenty this got me to thinking, why does it appear that people from certain countries seem to be able to grasp the English language better than others? In particular, Scandanavians and Germans. Some of these guys speak better English than myself! Also, being a fan of another great English past time, cricket, I have noticed that Indians and Pakistanis also seem to be able to speak English very well. Is there any scientific reason for this or does it just come down to old fashioned study?

In the Scandinavian countries, English language instruction starts young - second grade in Norway. That means both that the kids have a lot of hours of English instruction before they leave school, and that they start while their brains are still primed to learn language. Add to that the fact that much of the popular culture in Scandinavia is partially or entirely in English - imported movies are more likely to be subtitled than dubbed, for instance - and you’ve got very good conditions for English language acquisition.

This, of course, doesn’t help everyone. A certain rally driver named Petter Solberg, for instance. Or Torbjørn Jagland’s speech at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony last year :smack:

I bet the exposure to pop culture plays a very important part, probably more so than the early English instruction. Kids in Hong Kong spend very long hours in English instruction too, starting all the way from kindergarten. However, many students are not motivated to go beyond classroom instructions and get some exposure to real English, and their proficiency suffers greatly as a result. If I understand correctly, it’s probably safe to assume that a native English speaker can carry out at least a basic conversation in English with an average Scandinavian. I will not make that assumption at all in Hong Kong, especially once you move away from the more cosmopolitan central district.

I can understand that. :wink:

Also, English is most closely related to German (and somewhat to the Scandinavian languages), so learning English is easier for them than speakers of some other languages.

I’m not sure about Germans. As flodnak stated TV channels in Scandinavia and, I think, the Netherlands subtitle foreign languages, which means we hear them spoken all the time. In Germany, though, they are dubbed (hearing Charlie Sheen speaking German in 2 1/2 men, does not sound very natural). On the other hand, I was in Germany a couple of weeks ago and the waitress in the pub that instantly became our favourite was somewhat reluctant to speak English in the beginning but at our third visit within two days she spoke it very well. I can only attribute this to her being a bit insecure about her language skills but she overcame it in the end.

Well, English is one of the official languages of India.

And Pakistan.

I did not know that, but I suppose it makes sense.

It makes sense for all old colonies with several languages in them to use the old colonial language as a lingua franca. That way none of the domestic languages can be considered superiour to any other.

If you are Pakistani

All contracts, government documents and forms, your passport, laws, your tax returns, laws, rules, regulations, financial statements, court language, education, street signs, many newspapers, television programmes etc will be in English.

Somewhere along the line you are bound to pick it up.

Apparently so:


They do still play cricket in England, don’t they? It is not a thing of the past, but still an enjoyable way to pass the time.