Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

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Ug_Caveman
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby Ug_Caveman » Wed Feb 17, 2021 12:47 pm

Cavesa wrote:And French, or even a few other languages would improve the future of many people just like German. English no longer has the same power.). The governments know that the anglophone countries don't want us anymore and are too far away for most people. So, enforcing English and limiting German means limiting mobility.


Would you say that's because of Brexit or because of market over-saturation of English-speaking skills?

(Just to be clear, this is not an attempt at starting any political debates. I'm purely curious as to the socio-economic value of German compared to English at present.)
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby AroAro » Wed Feb 17, 2021 12:55 pm

Cavesa wrote: And it is actually marvellous that Spanish manages to do so well, exactly due to the "I might as well learn just for fun". However, it is curious that the languages of people in general viewed as poor are not considered fun too often. Romanian, Polish, or Arabic would all be both practical and surely fun choices too. But they are not.


The success story of Spanish language is really puzzling to me. In Poland, it is now the third most frequently taught foreign language and it surpassed easily French which was for many many years the default Romance language in Polish schools.

United States have a huge cultural, political and economical impact on the world. I wonder if Spanish success has something to do with it? Given the fact that Spanish is the most frequently taught foreign language in United States (which I believe makes perfect sense there), maybe it somehow helped spread the idea of Spanish being a language worth learning in the entire world? Honestly, learning Spanish in Poland makes no sense - there are many more job offers for French or even Italian speakers, let alone German ones. In the area I work in (accounting and financial services), Spanish speaking roles are anyway often filled in with native speakers who relocate to Poland. It's also true for French as well but only to some extent because there are simply more French roles out there so you cannot fill them all with expats.

Back to the main topic - yes, I believe the socio-economic status of the speakers is important to most people. In Poland, we have 1.5 mln immigrants from Ukraine who perform more often than not low paid jobs but I don't see Polish people rushing for Ukrainian course books. It's just not prestigious enough to warrant the effort. It's probably the same in UK - they don't learn Polish because it's not the language that has a "wow" factor and they won't ever impress their friends/other Englishmen with it.
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby chove » Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:12 pm

AroAro wrote:It's probably the same in UK - they don't learn Polish because it's not the language that has a "wow" factor and they won't ever impress their friends/other Englishmen with it.


The common attitude in the UK seems to be that immigrants should speak English at all times. :(
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby rdearman » Wed Feb 17, 2021 4:29 pm

chove wrote:
AroAro wrote:It's probably the same in UK - they don't learn Polish because it's not the language that has a "wow" factor and they won't ever impress their friends/other Englishmen with it.


The common attitude in the UK seems to be that immigrants should speak English at all times. :(

I think you'll find that is a common attitude in most countries:

  • Nicolas Sarkozy has demanded that all immigrants must "live like the French"
  • All immigrants should speak German at home, say Merkel's allies. Chancellor's sister party in Bavaria, the CSU
  • Would-be Australian citizens must learn English, says Coalition MP
  • Brazil - The Portuguese language is required from every applicant for either permanent residency or citizenship.
AroAro wrote:The success story of Spanish language is really puzzling to me.

According to the Cervantes Institute annual report from 2017, there are more than 572 million Spanish speakers in the world (7.8% of the world’s population). Of these 572 million, 477 million are native speakers, 73.7 million have a limited mastery of the language and another 21.2 million are studying it as a foreign language. These numbers make Spanish the second most spoken native language after Mandarin. So it isn't really a puzzle is it?
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby AroAro » Wed Feb 17, 2021 5:05 pm

rdearman wrote:
AroAro wrote:The success story of Spanish language is really puzzling to me.

According to the Cervantes Institute annual report from 2017, there are more than 572 million Spanish speakers in the world (7.8% of the world’s population). Of these 572 million, 477 million are native speakers, 73.7 million have a limited mastery of the language and another 21.2 million are studying it as a foreign language. These numbers make Spanish the second most spoken native language after Mandarin. So it isn't really a puzzle is it?


Yes, I know these numbers but it is still a puzzle. I'm speaking from the perspective of a not so important country in the middle of Europe. Offering to kids Spanish in schools - language of a country lying on the outskirts of the continent, with shaky economy and high unemployment rate is not something I can logically grasp. Schools could offer just as well Hindi/Urdu because it has a similar number of speakers and I can assure you that Latin America (where most of these native Spanish speakers live) is just as exotic to us as India, China or Japan.
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby Ug_Caveman » Wed Feb 17, 2021 5:13 pm

chove wrote:
AroAro wrote:It's probably the same in UK - they don't learn Polish because it's not the language that has a "wow" factor and they won't ever impress their friends/other Englishmen with it.


The common attitude in the UK seems to be that immigrants should speak English at all times. :(


I have some Welsh friends who still receive abuse for daring to speak their native language amongst themselves at university.
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby iguanamon » Wed Feb 17, 2021 5:50 pm

Up until a few years ago, the languages I chose to learn were because of their location in the Americas and the Caribbean. Socio-economic status certainly did not enter my mind when I chose to learn Haitian Creole. Haiti is ranked 169 out of 189 countries on the world poverty index by the World Bank. More people speak Haitian Creole natively than do French in the Americas. It's also a language I run into here and when I travel to Miami and New Orleans in the states.

Portuguese is a mixed bag with Portugal being a part of the EU and Brazil still a developing country and part of the BRICS countries. Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé e Principe; Cape Verde and East Timor are at the lower end of the range of socio-economic status. I don't care for my purposes. There is a long literary tradition all over the Lusophone world. Portuguese has plenty to be proud of in the world of culture.

Spanish has a mixed bag as well. It's the language most people in the US are most likely to encounter. Hispanic immigration to the US has tended to be from the lower end of the economic range. One only has to look at Miami and South Florida to see the vibrant and prosperous contribution to society of Hispanic immigration. I usually speak more Spanish in Miami than I do in Puerto Rico! Still to me it's all about the culture- music, food, literature. Spanish does not have to bow its head to anyone in that department.

The other languages I've learned are down to my interest and my perception of their usefulness to me. I like traveling in Spain, so I decided to learn Catalan. Lesser Antilles (the smaller Caribbean islands) French Creole is also a language I run into here on a regular basis and it's a natural segue from Haitian Creole. I've only met two Papiamento-speakers here. The Netherlands Antilles Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao are not easy to reach here. To get there you need a boat or to fly to Miami first. So, I left it aside.

Ultimately, one doesn't have to have any reason to learn any language other than a desire to do so. It only has to make sense to the learner. Socio-economic reasons to learn simply do not enter my equation.
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby Cavesa » Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:11 pm

Ug_Caveman wrote:
Cavesa wrote:And French, or even a few other languages would improve the future of many people just like German. English no longer has the same power.). The governments know that the anglophone countries don't want us anymore and are too far away for most people. So, enforcing English and limiting German means limiting mobility.


Would you say that's because of Brexit or because of market over-saturation of English-speaking skills?

(Just to be clear, this is not an attempt at starting any political debates. I'm purely curious as to the socio-economic value of German compared to English at present.)


1.yes, the saturation of the market has a lot to do with it. The English level that sufficed for a career twenty years ago is now supposed to be the norm. If you want to excel at English (even the verb "excel" gives a hint here), you need much more than back then. And if you want to profit from "language skills", you need two languages. They are demanded more and more often. The usual International English is expected just like reading and writing, so you'd better offer English+something else.

2.Yes, immigrants are less welcome. Brexit has only sped some things up and made them more obvious. The anglophone countries have been much more selective and less immigrant friendly long before that. At some point in history, they could afford it, because they were without any doubt offering much more than the others. But nowadays, the anglophone countries are not special, they are in some ways offering worse standards, than some others. So, why jump through many more hoops to get a smaller carrot? Better learn German, Swedish, French, Dutch. (But no, people were taught at school that "English is all that matters" and will complain at home instead.)

3.Geography. Commuting over the borders just with English is impossible, if you are not near to any anglophone country. But commuting is absolutely essential in many regions, for both sides of the border. But you need to speak your neighbour's language for that. But instead of helping people learn the neighbour's language, some countries prefer to let them stay poor and unemployed with English.

rdearman wrote:
chove wrote:
The common attitude in the UK seems to be that immigrants should speak English at all times. :(

I think you'll find that is a common attitude in most countries:

  • Nicolas Sarkozy has demanded that all immigrants must "live like the French"
  • All immigrants should speak German at home, say Merkel's allies. Chancellor's sister party in Bavaria, the CSU
  • Would-be Australian citizens must learn English, says Coalition MP
  • Brazil - The Portuguese language is required from every applicant for either permanent residency or citizenship.


Well, demanding strong knowledge of the local language is logical. It should be enforced (learn or leave). But yes, I am all for bilingualism. Of course. But two of these quotes are just pointing out how stupid is giving a permanent residency to someone unable to communicate in the official language.

But it brings us back to the topic: Those Bavarian politicians would surely not force an american immigrant to speak only German at home. They are talking only about the poorer nationalities.
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby risbolle » Fri Feb 19, 2021 7:36 am

AroAro wrote:
rdearman wrote:
AroAro wrote:The success story of Spanish language is really puzzling to me.

According to the Cervantes Institute annual report from 2017, there are more than 572 million Spanish speakers in the world (7.8% of the world’s population). Of these 572 million, 477 million are native speakers, 73.7 million have a limited mastery of the language and another 21.2 million are studying it as a foreign language. These numbers make Spanish the second most spoken native language after Mandarin. So it isn't really a puzzle is it?


Yes, I know these numbers but it is still a puzzle. I'm speaking from the perspective of a not so important country in the middle of Europe. Offering to kids Spanish in schools - language of a country lying on the outskirts of the continent, with shaky economy and high unemployment rate is not something I can logically grasp. Schools could offer just as well Hindi/Urdu because it has a similar number of speakers and I can assure you that Latin America (where most of these native Spanish speakers live) is just as exotic to us as India, China or Japan.


There's an understated amount of the irrational in people's behaviour, such as in deciding on a language to learn.

Specifically regarding Spanish, I suspect the subconscious appeal, as a gross oversimplification, is:
- Impressive geographic coverage by a quick look at the world map (no matter if you never travel to any of those places)
- Stats like the ones quoted above (no matter that you'll never meet a tiny fraction of those folk)

Then there are some more logical reasons to clinch the deal, e.g.:
- Prestige related to classic literature, literary tradition and the arts
- Low entry cost for a speaker of another Indo-European language
- Native speakers being welcoming of the learner's efforts
- If you do find yourself in a spanish-speaking country, your Spanish stands a good chance of actually being put to use

(I'm learning Spanish and I'm loving it. It's fun. And I like looking at the world map.)
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Re: Is the socio-economic status of a language's speakers an important factor when choosing a language to learn?

Postby IronMike » Fri Feb 19, 2021 9:24 am

devilyoudont wrote:For me personally, as I add languages, I am only interested in adding languages which are spoken in my city.

100% this. I love trying to learn the language(s) of my neighbors.
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