Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby aokoye » Thu Feb 28, 2019 4:50 am

All of this talk of Spain when the vast majority of L1 Spanish speakers don't live in Spain...

Here's a link, but also, just look at the population of Mexico (while obviously not all of Mexico's population are L1 Spanish speakers, more than 90% are).
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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby Cavesa » Thu Feb 28, 2019 11:41 am

rdearman wrote:I think fight is just fighting for second place, aka the silver medal. Nobody means actual fighting the title would have been better using the word competition rather than fight. :D

This is the most important part. English is different. These two fight over the second place and still in just some regions. I think we have already agreed that in some regions, this match is not even being played and other languages take the silver.

kanewai wrote:I pretty much agree with everything Cavesa wrote ... but French has one advantage that I think is being overlooked. I find that Francophone countries have more economic and cultural connections with non-Francophone countries than Spanish-speaking countries do. The few times I've been to international environmental conferences the second language has been French. Part of this, I suspect, is that so many NGOs are based in Geneva or Brussels. My impression is that Spanish-speaking countries tend to interact more among themselves, creating a world that is somewhat apart. A city like Paris is like New York and London - a cultural center for the world. I can't think of a Spanish-speaking city that is on that level. Mexico City (CDMX), for example, is one of the world's great cities, and I love it - but it is a cultural center for Latin America rather than the world.

My personal guess is that the 'struggle' between Spanish and French for second place won't be decided anytime soon.

I'd like to agree back with Kanewai. French has the advantage of being established in places, where the Spanish speaking countries haven't pushed the language so much yet. It is a huge advantage in those important NGOs.

But I wouldn't say it is just an advantage. The Spanish speaking countries keep a lot of motivation for the language learners exactly thanks to being a bit apart. Paris being so international actually removes the reasons to learn the language.

A few days ago, I saw a nice video about Erasmus. It was a motivational video like "don't worry, not knowing a language well is not a problem" and France was the example country. Yes, I agree that you shouldn't worry too much. But you shouldn't worry about the language because it is not such a big deal to learn it (if you are able to study a demanding degree, the idea of you being unable to get to B2 in a mainstream langauge, if you really try, is laughable). They were instead sending the message "don't worry, everyone is ok with you not knowing much, and English is always an option anyways!". It is a huge problem, that France is removing incentives to learn the language. Spain or LA countries are not doing this.

I am not saying this to support the Fr vs Es vs English part of this thread, English has already won, the Winter is not coming, it has already come (GoT reference). But the silver medal won't go to the language attacking English directly, that is not likely. But it will definitely belong to the langauge that does allow English to push it away the least. The language that sticks to its own ground.

PeterMollenburg wrote:So to really guage the usefulness and importance of which is more useful outside of Latin America for example or being right next door to France, then not only do we need to look at L2 learners of each language, but also immigrants and tourist numbers. That’s of course also ignoring literature, film, internet and so on.

Yes. And that's why I think the silver medal can only be discussed regionally, not globally.
There are also several (not only two) types of immigrants. Whether or not they make the local population more likely to learn the language, and whether or not will they become a visible part of the local culture, that depends on many factors.

romeo.alpha wrote:I have way more Spanish co-workers than French. Infinitely more in fact. (And more Portuguese than Spanish, incidentally). I speak French on a regular basis, and I've never had to learn Spanish, because the Spaniards have learned German (or English, or French), and Spanish guests will also speak either French or English.

This is very interesting experience! I have always seen Spaniards, who were sticking together because of the language barrier. On several occassions. Basically during any student exchange and similar kind of experience. As a language learner, I love that about them :-) The other exchange students stick together and speak English, despite it being nobody's first language. Both groups are of course failing to learn the local language, true. But the Spaniards are typical of this (seems to be a universal view on them), with Italians doing this to a lower extent.

But I guess that individual Spanish natives finding a job abroad are no less likely to be good at foreign languages than anyone else. Here, they often learn Czech without much of a problem.

javier_getafe wrote:[Here in Spain, at schools, people study english, english , and english.

Hmm. Interesting. I think Spanish is therefore not too endangered by English, if even the best students with so much English teaching behind them still suck at it. It was fascinating, when I was in Spain and heard the local medicine students. I didn't mind their bad (and in some cases horrible) English at all, as a Spanish learner. It was awesome for me!. But one guy's horrible English almost lead to him physically attacking a foreign guy (and I was then acting as an interpreter. My active skills were around A2/B1 back then, you can imagine what it was like :-D)

So, if the students with extremely good grades during their whole schooling, therefore great grades during many years of English classes, struggle to put together a simple sentence, what does the rest of the population speak like?

Another fact. In primary and secondary school in Spain. Every student need to do the A2 exam in primary and First exam in secondary. And I am talking about official exam from cambridge. The spain government has a special agreement with Cambridge school in order to asses every boy in Spain.


If that works, it is certainly a great thing and should improve the English of the people. Just paying Cambridge to do the real exams is a better solution than to pay a lot to a weird private company that makes watered down dubious exams (that is the Czech Republic's "solution").

Let's hope it won't diminish the love of the Spaniards for their own language in the international situations.

And I hope they test girls too ;-)

romeo.alpha wrote: I've met quite a few Arabs for instance who speak French but no English.

The Arabs speaking French are speaking it as their second native language usually, not as a foreign one. Several Arabic speaking countries have at least a part of their education system running in French. So, what do the people in France want doesn't matter much. If you are an Algerian, Moroccan, or Libyan with ambitions, you're likely to need French whether or not you ever meet any foreigner at all.
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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby romeo.alpha » Thu Feb 28, 2019 11:47 am

javier_getafe wrote:
romeo.alpha wrote:The situation in Spain is hardly relevant to Spanish immigrants outside Spain, who are going to be learning the local language of whatever country they moved to (which is why they speak German where I am)


Of course 1+1=2

In the same way, I have two good friends living here from UK and France and they both learnt Spanish, so it was relevant for them, Im afraid.


And there you're comparing numbers of L2 Spanish speakers to L2 French speakers, which we already know. L2 French speakers is over 200 million, L2 Spanish speakers is under 71 million.
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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby romeo.alpha » Thu Feb 28, 2019 11:52 am

Cavesa wrote:The Arabs speaking French are speaking it as their second native language usually, not as a foreign one. Several Arabic speaking countries have at least a part of their education system running in French. So, what do the people in France want doesn't matter much. If you are an Algerian, Moroccan, or Libyan with ambitions, you're likely to need French whether or not you ever meet any foreigner at all.


That is a part of it yes, but even Syrians, Egyptians and Iraqis will speak French. It's a language they will learn in school, but they don't speak it natively. Some of them stuck with just French even though English and German were also offered because they couldn't get a grasp on the latter two. I suspect French prosody being like Arabic prosody makes it more accessible to them.
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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby Cavesa » Thu Feb 28, 2019 12:12 pm

romeo.alpha wrote:
Cavesa wrote:The Arabs speaking French are speaking it as their second native language usually, not as a foreign one. Several Arabic speaking countries have at least a part of their education system running in French. So, what do the people in France want doesn't matter much. If you are an Algerian, Moroccan, or Libyan with ambitions, you're likely to need French whether or not you ever meet any foreigner at all.


That is a part of it yes, but even Syrians, Egyptians and Iraqis will speak French. It's a language they will learn in school, but they don't speak it natively. Some of them stuck with just French even though English and German were also offered because they couldn't get a grasp on the latter two. I suspect French prosody being like Arabic prosody makes it more accessible to them.


Most learners don't care about stuff like prosody or don't even have any clue what it is.

The fact that they are offered the option at school, and as a valid one (I guess young Egyptians or Iraqis are not being told "but French is a too hard language, you will fail anyways"), is much more important. The ties are simply still strong there.

It is also irrealistic to believe that all the languages are taught at the same level of quality. Just like French is being taught much worse than German in the Czech Republic (smaller tradition of it, fewer teachers the schools can choose their employees from and therefore lots of really bad ones still get the job, lots of prejudices towards the language based on the lack of tradition), I have no problem believing the opposite could be true in Syria or Egypt and for more or less the same reasons.

Spanish is not much of importance in those countries, despite Spain being nearby. The tradition is simply important.

aokoye wrote:All of this talk of Spain when the vast majority of L1 Spanish speakers don't live in Spain...

Here's a link, but also, just look at the population of Mexico (while obviously not all of Mexico's population are L1 Spanish speakers, more than 90% are).

True. The discussion has become very eurocentric. But Europe is the most diverse and changing, as far as the competition between Spanish and French goes.

Spanish has clearly won the silver medal in the US, French is clearly holding the position in Canada. Africa still prefers French, which may be replaced not by Spanish and perhaps not even by English, but also by Arabic or the original african languages, and we may even see a rise of importance of Mandarin. Asia doesn't care much about either French or Spanish.
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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby romeo.alpha » Thu Feb 28, 2019 12:17 pm

Cavesa wrote:Most learners don't care about stuff like prosody or don't even have any clue what it is.


Which is exactly why a language with similar prosody will be more accessible than one with foreign prosody.

The fact that they are offered the option at school, and as a valid one (I guess young Egyptians or Iraqis are not being told "but French is a too hard language, you will fail anyways"), is much more important. The ties are simply still strong there.


Neither is anyone else. French is among the languages English speakers are told is easiest, due to lexical proximity.

It is also irrealistic to believe that all the languages are taught at the same level of quality. Just like French is being taught much worse than German in the Czech Republic (smaller tradition of it, fewer teachers the schools can choose their employees from and therefore lots of really bad ones still get the job, lots of prejudices towards the language based on the lack of tradition), I have no problem believing the opposite could be true in Syria or Egypt and for more or less the same reasons.


That French is being taught better than Spanish or German in Syria or Egypt is plausible. That French is being taught better than English in Syria or Egypt is not. So in this case, your explanation would not appear to explain it after all.
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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby Cavesa » Thu Feb 28, 2019 1:00 pm

romeo.alpha wrote:
Cavesa wrote:Most learners don't care about stuff like prosody or don't even have any clue what it is.


Which is exactly why a language with similar prosody will be more accessible than one with foreign prosody.


:-D But the mainstream language learners choose from several options and based on totally different criteria. If your logic applied here, do you think English would be so widely learnt? Nobody cares whether it is distant from their own language or what its prosody is. And the same is true about other languages. Who cares about prosody. People care much more about the language being available and bringing them more money in future. Prosody is not important during the choice at all.

I have yet to hear about a single learner outside of this forum, who would say "well, I wanted language X, but language Y has easier prosody, so I changed my mind". Or about a school like "we chose the second foreign language for our students based on the prosody and lexical proximity" :-D It simply doesn't happen.


The fact that they are offered the option at school, and as a valid one (I guess young Egyptians or Iraqis are not being told "but French is a too hard language, you will fail anyways"), is much more important. The ties are simply still strong there.


Neither is anyone else. French is among the languages English speakers are told is easiest, due to lexical proximity.


Many people are. The fact you were not told that doesn't mean people in general aren't being told that.

People are being told exactly that. In the Czech Republic (and not only, from what I've heard), it is absolutely normal to discourage the French learners or people interested in it in such a way. Hey, even during my Erasmus, the local university employess told a mixed international group a lot about French being such a hard langauge during the welcome speech! :-D

And if you look anywhere around the internet, the "Spanish is much easier than French" idea is spread among the anglophones quite widely.

Perhaps you should consider, that if your presented personal experience is valid (as you've been using such examples repeatedly), perhaps the experience of other people is true as well. ;-)


It is also irrealistic to believe that all the languages are taught at the same level of quality. Just like French is being taught much worse than German in the Czech Republic (smaller tradition of it, fewer teachers the schools can choose their employees from and therefore lots of really bad ones still get the job, lots of prejudices towards the language based on the lack of tradition), I have no problem believing the opposite could be true in Syria or Egypt and for more or less the same reasons.


That French is being taught better than Spanish or German in Syria or Egypt is plausible. That French is being taught better than English in Syria or Egypt is not. So in this case, your explanation would not appear to explain it after all.


French might be taught better than English, what is not that plausible about it? You seem not to know much about English teaching around the world. There are various factors affecting that. A traditionally strong language with a huge base of support and lots of teachers is not unlikely to be taught in general better than a newer language, given the various problems in ESL teaching discussed in the other threads (such as many countries getting mostly really bad native "teachers", who just have passed a short CELTA and primarily teach to escape their primary career failure and get a nice expat lifestyle, or the problems coming with the "communicative" approach ad absurdum, or lack of the English teachers being covered by other langauge teachers switching and being one lesson before the students, and so on). English is often not that well taught. The students in most countries are just more motivated. If they are motivated to learn French instead, it shows.

Also, my explanation included a few more points, such as the subjective perception of the language's difficulty and importance (based on the local tradition). Unless you have a lot more experience with exactly those countries to tell me that these points do not apply, I can't see why my theory should be worse than yours at all.
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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby zenmonkey » Thu Feb 28, 2019 1:07 pm

Cavesa wrote:True. The discussion has become very eurocentric. But Europe is the most diverse and changing, as far as the competition between Spanish and French goes.


And not really true or relevant, those changes are small and not significant, if French takes over as "numero dos" it will only be through the growth of speaker population in Africa. This is recognised by the IOF that tracks and projects these things (and may indeed have an agenda to push the importance of French...). In reality, French is losing ground as a second language in Europe with a negative rate of growth.

https://www.euractiv.com/section/langua ... in-europe/

Now you may or may not believe the projected growth rates published by the IOF. (I'm doubtful.)

But the reality is that by 2050 things will ... not have changed that much. Even if those projections are on the money and the French language speaking population explodes in Africa (we are talking about more than 50% growth over the period!) The numbers will be pretty close 7-8 % for each language. Continentally focused populations where, by the numbers, Spanish is more important in North and South America and French is more important in Africa and the rest is a toss-up. The 10-20 M difference in Europe is peanuts.



By the way, can we please stop saying "South America" when we mean "Latin America" (the countries that speak Spanish or Portuguese). The largest Spanish speaking country in the world by at least a factor of 3 is in North America. And at least 30% of the Spanish speaking population in the Americas is in the northern continent.
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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby romeo.alpha » Thu Feb 28, 2019 1:14 pm

Cavesa wrote:
:-D But the mainstream language learners choose from several options and based on totally different criteria. If your logic applied here, do you think English would be so widely learnt? Nobody cares whether it is distant from their own language or what its prosody is.


They'll pick the language they have an easier time with, even if they don't understand why they have an easier time. It's the same reason most Germans prefer to learn Spanish or Italian. None of them could explain why they find French so difficult, but they'll still shy away from it.

Perhaps you should consider, that if your presented personal experience is valid (as you've been using such examples repeatedly), perhaps the experience of other people is true as well. ;-)


It's not your experiences I question, it's your reasoning.

French might be taught better than English, what is not that plausible about it?


What's not plausible? That English is a second class language compared to any other when it comes to teaching. Way more money is put into English education worldwide than any other foreign language. It's not even a context. Way more research is put into ELL than any other language.

You seem not to know much about English teaching around the world. There are various factors affecting that. A traditionally strong language with a huge base of support and lots of teachers is not unlikely to be taught in general better than a newer language, given the various problems in ESL teaching discussed in the other threads (such as many countries getting mostly really bad native "teachers", who just have passed a short CELTA and primarily teach to escape their primary career failure and get a nice expat lifestyle, or the problems coming with the "communicative" approach ad absurdum, or lack of the English teachers being covered by other langauge teachers switching and being one lesson before the students, and so on). English is often not that well taught. The students in most countries are just more motivated. If they are motivated to learn French instead, it shows.


For all the theoretical complaints armchair language teachers might come up with ELT around the world, there are hundreds of millions of people who learned English as a foreign language and who speak it very well. If the communicative approach, which seems to draw some irrational ire on this forum, weren't effective, it wouldn't still be used. People learn English because their livelihoods depend on it, and failure to achieve a certain level means they'll look for other teaching methods, and schools will change what they offer.
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Re: Spanish against French: the fight to be the second global language

Postby aokoye » Thu Feb 28, 2019 4:00 pm

romeo.alpha wrote:
PeterMollenburg wrote:This isn’t actually correct, because you’re forgetting one category. Although I’m not suggesting Spanish therefore ‘wins’ this battle, yes numbers of learners of these two languages is very important as you suggest, however you’re not taking into account immigrants.


There are two types of immigrants though. Those who are learning the local language, and those who don't want to talk to you anyway. Learning Spanish because of immigrants becomes relevant if you get in a relationship with a Spanish-speaker, and want to communicate with their family, or in certain lines of work (and certain lines of work is something that will always re-arrange languages in order of usefulness).

I have way more Spanish co-workers than French. Infinitely more in fact. (And more Portuguese than Spanish, incidentally). I speak French on a regular basis, and I've never had to learn Spanish, because the Spaniards have learned German (or English, or French), and Spanish guests will also speak either French or English.

With regards to lines of work in the US I can easily, think of a number of fields of work where spanish would be an asset (and it's not even 8am yet). Any medical field that involves communicating with patients, education (including at the administration level), culinary fields, landscaping, agriculture, various public administration jobs that are forward facing, really any customer facing job, law enforcement, journalism, and business. When push comes to shove, "learning the local language" isn't as easy I think a lot of people realize (for a whole host of reasons) and there are going to be situations where immigrants who don't speak that language are going to have to communicate with people outside of their immigrant community. It's not an simple or clear cut "well they aren't going to want to talk to you" situation.
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