There has been a lot of debate recently – much of it covered in these pages – about the merit of teaching our school children more than one foreign language.
I studied French at school - and to this day can still say ‘That’s enough, it’s bad for your teeth’ if I spot someone ladelling too much sugar into their tea.
It’s not a lot of use but can still be employed more than the single sentence an ex-colleague mastered. ‘The monkey is in the tree’ isn’t likely to get you very far.
Anyway, to get back to my point, last week I had the occasion to wish I had learned the rudiments of Spanish.
After a short holiday, I was to get a bus to the airport - only it didn’t turn up.
Panicking, I managed to flag down a passing police car and explain my predicament.
Not only did the officer undertstand me, he booked the taxi himself, waited for it to turn up and then negotiated a cut price deal with the driver.
Now I’m sure many of our police officers would have been equally accomodating, but would they have been able to understand someone who couldn’t speak a word of English?
Most of us are guilty of expecting everyone to speak our language without making any attempt to understand theirs.
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