Magazine topic: 
Life around the world
Total votes: 104

Why do the Spanish learn English but the English don't learn Spanish?

by : 

An interesting question. Even more interesting given that it came from the mouth of one of the 10 year old boys in my class on my first day of teaching in León, Spain. Even more tricky to answer, given that the teacher had told the children that I speak no Spanish (a white lie, told in their best interests of course). Stood in front of a class of 20 eager young English learners, members of the generation that is expected to build the international bridges of the future through their bilingualism, I clearly did not appear the best ambassador for learning foreign languages.

Nevertheless, children need answers as much as they need fresh air, five portions of fruit a day, and a favourite sweet shop. My immediate reaction was a smile, as I was amazed at how insightful this young boy had been with a question that, perhaps unknown to him, lifted the lid on a worldwide debate. I noticed that the teacher next to me was also smiling, as she struggled to find a response that did not belittle the Spanish language, nor that glorified the English one.

Could she have said that there are more people in the world that talk English than Spanish? After a quick Google check, it appears that English comes just above Spanish in the list of most spoken languages worldwide. Nevertheless, Mandarin is number one, yet who has ever been forced to study Mandarin at school?

Could she have said that English is the language of commerce? It is true that, as the official language of more countries than any other language, English is often the first port of call for official international relations and business. Nevertheless, does this mean that British kids should forfeit the opportunity to learn Spanish because it is only an official language of a mere 20 sovereign states?

Could she have said that English is more important than Spanish? I think you’ll agree with me that no. How can one language be more important than another, as long as there are people that speak it?

In the end, she settled for a simple, yet awkward, ‘because English is spoken in more countries, but the English learn French too you know!’. Guessing from the face that the boy pulled, he was either very unsatisfied with the response, or he just didn’t understand a word she said.


How do you feel about learning English? Do people around the world learn your language? 


hadia's picture
hadia 9 December, 2016 - 13:42

Wow, it was really an awkward situation. Kids do ask unusual questions most of the time, which we ourselves, have no answer for.

26 users have voted.
dzeni's picture
dzeni 14 March, 2014 - 19:21

I like learning English because it`s world language and I know I won`t succeed in my life without it. People around the world don`t learn my language because it isn`t a world language and it speaks a small number of people.

32 users have voted.
khawla's picture
khawla 17 December, 2013 - 15:59

hi JoEditor
thanks.. i want to be good in english because i need it to speak with others and to have a good marks in exam :)

36 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 17 December, 2013 - 15:32

Hi khawla,
This website is especially for people like you, who want to improve their level of English. Try some of the activities and if you have questions, just ask.
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

40 users have voted.
Pero7's picture
Pero7 30 November, 2013 - 13:15

Learning English helped me a lot. Without it, I wouldn't be here now, and I wouldn't have a hobby of making pictures and posting in some websites. I use other foreign languagees too from time to time, but most often I stick with English.

38 users have voted.
Bosnianchild's picture
Bosnianchild 18 November, 2013 - 16:10

I learn English for nine years, and I really enjoy it! My mum is professor of English, and she always helps me. I love English very much, I'm very interested in English culture especially for Chelsea-London's football club. I adore it.
For Bosnian language. I do not think that is so much popular language. Bosnian language has so much similar with Turkish language. Immigrants from Bosnia speaks their native language in their countries.
I now two girls who were born in London, grew up in London, but they only speak English with their English friends, they speak Bosnian in house with their parents, cousins, and friends who are from Balkan, too.
English is very popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so many young students decide to learn English at university.
However, learning foreign languages is very important.

34 users have voted.
hawkfrost541's picture
hawkfrost541 11 November, 2013 - 20:21

Hi I found this site by accident when I was looking up Why everyone learns English. I hadn't thought of it much since I am a native English speaking person but I'm doing a project for my class on south Korea and most of their broadcasts and newspapers are in english. I was curious if someone could maybe explain to me what it's like learning English. If anyone wanted to know I live in the United States and we don't get to much talk about other coutries and cultures much. I am also learning Japanese which is very difficult for me but i love the Japanese and Asian cultures they intrigue me quite a bit. I would also like to know what books and movies you guys have seen and if you have any questions I can try my best to answer them. Thank you for your time.

36 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 12 November, 2013 - 08:18

Hi hawkfrost541
Welcome to LearnEnglish Teens. There are lots of teenagers here who could help answer your questions about what it's like to learn English. I'm sure they will have some questions for you too. It's great that you're learning Japanese. If you want to read about what books and movies our users have seen, check out the Magazine sections, books and entertainment
Have a good day! Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

52 users have voted.
WildChild's picture
WildChild 5 November, 2013 - 14:44

I enjoy speaking, reading and writing English but specially with friends. I don't think other countries are studying Serbian.

32 users have voted.
Lejdi's picture
Lejdi 10 October, 2013 - 18:34

I love learning English. It is a beautiful language. I am from Albania and there are many people in Kosovo,Macedonia and Montenegro who learn Albanian.

32 users have voted.
justcricketforme's picture
justcricketforme 8 October, 2013 - 15:30

I like reading and writing English. It's intresting and an easy language. I like being fluent at it. Well people do learn Urdu but not in a big majority because I met a forgiener and she knew Urdu. My friend who is Russian, her Mum and brother know Urdu and so does my British friend and her family.

31 users have voted.
Natalija's picture
Natalija 5 October, 2013 - 12:58

I really like English. It is an very important language nowadays, and I've been studying it at school since the first grade of a primary school, but I don't learn it because I"m forced to, but because I really enjoy it. I like reading American and English literature, and knowledge of English is very useful when you can't find some books in your native language. I also use it when I need some school material, since there're no many material available on Internet in my native language, Serbian.
I think that people around world don't learn Serbian so much, since it's spoken in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro, but people use it in other countries too, where Serbs live-in Macedonia and Croatia. Serbian is so common to languages spoken in Montenegro and Croatia, that we can understand each other without any problem. I actually find these languages the same.
When I was on my school trip a few weeks ago, in Prague and Vienna, many people there spoke Serbian, which I didn't expect, especially in Prague. There're many Serbs.

38 users have voted.
Lavender's picture
Lavender 6 October, 2013 - 12:13

Hi Natalija. It's me again I read your comment and I really like it.
About American and English literature, I learned "The Last Leaf" and "The Old Man and The Sea" and "Romeo and Juliet" at school. Do you learn them at school Nat?
And which American/English books have you read?

34 users have voted.
Natalija's picture
Natalija 9 October, 2013 - 14:13

Hi Lavender :-) Nice to talk to you again :-).
I read those books you've mentioned for school, except The Last Leaf. We read Romeo and Juliet two years ago, and I read The Old Man and The Sea a week ago, I liked it.
I've read many English and American books, these're some of them: Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and Damned, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, The Tale of Two Cities,The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Scarlet Letter, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Cather in the Rye, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, As I Lay Dying, Hamlet etc. What do you think about your country's literature? What's it like?

35 users have voted.
Harabeli Supersweet's picture
Harabeli Supersweet 4 October, 2013 - 18:53

I feel so happy about learning English. I think that learning a new language is so much more than just being able to speak it or understand it. It can open new doors to you and give you a new way of seeing your life. The languages that we learn improve our general knowledge and they teach us more about the culture of different countries.
Not so many people in the world learn my native language, Albanian. It sounds difficult to most of the foreigns.

29 users have voted.
sailor moon's picture
sailor moon 3 October, 2013 - 20:00

I love english. It is an easy language. I don`t know if pupils in different countries learn my language. But i`m sure that all children in the world have heard that italian it`s an easy language and it is famous.

40 users have voted.
monikatoto's picture
monikatoto 3 October, 2013 - 13:36

I love English! I learn English because I with my sister want to live in England after two years.

33 users have voted.
GuzAnas2001's picture
GuzAnas2001 23 October, 2013 - 20:33

Hi.And i love english,it`s my favorite subject at school,too.This site is something new for me.I think it will be nice facility for my learning english.I`m sure i`d like it.

42 users have voted.
Lavender's picture
Lavender 2 October, 2013 - 06:08

English seems not to help me a lot in my daily life. We don't use English a lot in conversations nor in documents (I don't talk about in business) because most of people here are not good at English.
However, I love English and love learning English. I began to learn English when I was in grade 6. It is my compulsory subject at school. But I learn English not only as I'm forced to but also I want to master it to understand what people in over the world are talking about. I like watching American movies, music videos and following celebrities and this will be easier if I know English. U know the translation version is late and not always available so if I could master English I would have a chance to enjoy the latest movies, books or the hottest news about my favorite stars. That will be awesome.
Moreover some materials on the Internet which I need for my study are written in English. In this case me knowing English is an advantage over my friends since I could download them then use them to make my presentation richer.
I know many students after graduating and getting a good job which no relevant to foreign countries they gave up learning English. But for me even when I'm old I will keep learning English forever.

36 users have voted.
IloveallinConan's picture
IloveallinConan 30 April, 2015 - 00:05

hi Lavender, i from viet nam, too. Your opinion is very similar to me. Learning English is easier to find information, ease of development work, ... I also often learn at the information in English to apply for school lessons.

37 users have voted.