I have always considered myself to be fluent in the language. Unfortunately I (and those that I converse with) are a little unsure of which language it is that I am supposed to be fluent in.
A long, long time ago in a country far, far away called Britain, there was a wise and antiquated state educational system. This education authority believed that Britain was the centre of the world, and as such there could be no possible need for anybody to learn any other language, as most of the people from all of the other countries would need to speak English anyway. However, after a short while they found that they needed to fill a small gap in their curriculum and so, as a concession, decided that teaching pupils over the age of 11 the French language for an hour and a half every week would be more than enough to ensure that Britain educated itself adequately.
It was decided that only pupils over 11 should be taught a new language, because as everybody is aware, those under this age are completely incapeable of learning a new language – equally so, 2 x 45 minute periods were chosen because this would be more than enough to ensure that this language could be spoken to the highest of standards.
The French language was chosen as a matter of default – it was completely inconceivable that anybody would wish to venture further abroad for their holidays, and even the largest of corporations would not trade abroad much further than France. Even if they did (Gasp!), then obviously it would be expected that their clients would be grateful enough for the opportunity to trade with the mighty British Empire to speak English fluently anyway. So, the French language was decided upon half heartedly – and in any case might just come in useful when watching re-runs of “'Allo 'Allo“ on the BBC.
Sarcasm aside, I think you will get my point.
At the age of 36, although I am not incapeable of learning a language, I do not have the luxury of having a sponge-like mind, and the time and resource of being able to be taught a language in a formal and structered environment like at school. How I wish that my Grammar school taught me a useful language to a half-decent standard instead of insisting on teaching me Classics and Latin, which have served me no end of use through the years.
Yes, I fully accept that I have the opportunity to leanrn Spanish – especially now that I am living in Spain, however I suffer from the English disease of being terminally lazy, finding excuses too easy to come by, and embarassingly not undertsanding the grammar of my own native language too well also. How can I do justice to learning a language under these circumstances ?
I have decided that in the new year I will put aside a full week of my time and take an intensive residential course somewhere away from home where I will have no distractions and be put in an environment where I simply have to learn the language. I know that in a formal and structured environment, where I can be taught 40 to 50 hours of the language, I will be able to raise my level of spoken Spanish to a standard where I am not embarrassed by my language skills at some point in the future. My daughter has just gone 2 years old and can count to ten and knows the names of shapes and colours in 3 languages, whereas I struggle in just the one.
I would strongly advise that anybody in a similar situation does the same – it is the only way that we can get ourselves out of the rut we as English people find ourselves in !