Learning Spanish or any foreign language is challenging for Americans because of the ubiquitous nature of the English language and American culture.There is no doubt that Americans are capable of becoming proficient in other languages; but as any extended stay may reveal, there are many reasons why a large extent Americans' near indifference to foreign language skill is understandable. English is the world's second language, and it is possible to get by almost anywhere with English.
It is hard to think of a place on earth anymore where American fast food isn't available, American movies and television programs don't dominate, and where people who've lived or studied in the U.S. can't be found.
In a three-thousand mile journey that would take most Europeans through literally dozens of different language-speaking areas, populated by people who don't speak the traveler's own language, an American will experience only almost imperceptible differences in the American dialect of English. Americans simply don't have the obvious need, and the motivation that flows from awareness of that need, to learn other languages. To complicate the issue, the United States has been able to not only survive but prosper with the top levels of institutions; public and private, staffed almost entirely by monolingual English speakers with no significant overseas experience. Despite constant hyping of the "global market"; the role the U.
S. has adopted as peacekeeper involved in literally dozens of countries; the incredible growth of "maquiladoras" on the Mexican border and other overseas involvement of U.S.
business; native-born Americans by and large remain monolingual English speakers. The adverse effects of this are diffuse, and easy to ignore for most people. Our incredible foreign trade deficit may have cost thousands of jobs, but the realization that either competition or cooperation with people we haven't taken the trouble to understand may be a big part of the problem apparently hasn't yet sunk in.
The nation-wide debate over what to do about the education problems of our burgeoning, largely Spanish-speaking, immigrant population is a case in point--a drama played out before an audience with no idea of foreign (or second) language learning, by actors who are motivated largely by political motives. Detailing the present and future problems of continued resistance to foreign language learning is too complex for serious discussion here, but thinking people know that these problems are real and growing. Starting with "Sputnik" startling Americans out of their complacency about world-wide scientific leadership, millions upon millions of dollars, both public and private, have been spent on "foreign language education".
The results have been a proliferation of theories, methods and systems; an equal proliferation of purveyors of theories, methods and systems--and no perceptible change in language proficiency in the American population at large. Over the past four decades, there has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal picture. The U.S. Foreign Service overcame the indifference of Americans to learning foreign languages by making demonstrated foreign language competence a condition for continued employment. The crucial factor, though, was using some of the millions made available by the post-Sputnik reaction to engage the world's greatest language experts to design a series of complete, structured courses to make it possible for previously mono-lingual Americans to become the polyglots who today make up the Foreign Service.
It is ironic that the Foreign Service (which means diplomatic and consular) of the most linguistically disadvantaged country in the developed world should be generally acknowledged as the most linguistically competent.
Travis Newmanis the author of this article on Learning Spanish . Find more information about Learning Spanish course here.