I love England. I love its tranquillity, its history and its pride; I love the beauty of its countryside and the diversity of its towns; I love its tradition and its foibles. But lately I am becoming more and more ashamed of its xenophobia - specifically with language. At university I am increasingly overwhelmed by students - mostly European - who are studying literature to the same level as I (and not struggling with it, as I seem to) but in a second or third language. This blows my mind. I cannot even begin to conceive doing this myself and I notice that this is a generally accepted consensus. This isn't because we don't have a programme to facilitate it - we do, it's called ERASMUS - it seems a greater case of apathy or of being under-prepared. There are people, of course, who do this. People who jump head-first into another culture and embrace all the tiny nuances of its language. I commend them. Doing this is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea (to use an appropriately English idiom) - it certainly isn't mine and perhaps that is hypocritical of me? - but as a nation we do not seem particularly embracing of other languages. We go on holiday and we stumble through their polite etiquette; we emigrate but we stick with our English verbs or our vocabulary; we are, in short, reluctant to learn a second language. Proof of this exists in our education system where a second language at GCSE is no longer compulsory. So languages at A-level, at university and then into the working world all fall.
And I, too, am guilty of this. At A-level I progressed with French but I have since failed to pick it up again. Every day I feel the verb formations I once learned slipping from my grasp and the grammatical patterns realigning back to English ways. Perhaps, though, this is just me? And perhaps it truly is working for the rest of the country? But I know as I sit in class with a Norwegian or a Czechoslovakian student as we battle through 18th Century literature, I feel the lesser entity.
So onto the list I keep of things to do is picking French up again and learning something new. One day I will find the time.
But please, in the mean time, tell me your thoughts.
(This is Paris, from a trip a year or so ago. It was my first trip abroad in a long time and with my love. What a beautiful, beautiful city!)