Why you don’t need to know another language (but why you should want to)

The majority of the European exchange students I met in Spain speak the language of their country, English fluently and then Spanish (to varying degrees of fluency).

A Dutch friend told me, “In Holland, not speaking English well is an embarrassment. It’s a sign of not having a good education.”

The vast majority of people I encountered in my daily life at the University of Navarra, in Pamplona and in travels around Spain and Italy spoke English. Some people preferred to speak to me in English once they found out I’m an American. The level of English knowledge is not quite at the same level as it is in many northern European countries, but the vast majority of the population at least has passable English skills.

It’s almost embarrassing how poorly I speak Spanish. I’m in my capstone class for my Spanish degree. We are all college-educated students who have been studying Spanish for four years at the bare minimum. Most of us have been studying since high school or before. While fluency levels vary from person to person, the vast majority of us speak at a lesser level than many of the Spanish students speak English.


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