Since I have been all over the world and have a big interest in language, this is a good question to ask me. I haven’t visited every country in the world, but I know about several countries.
To begin with, I will tell you what America does. Yes, we have our ESL classes for students who don’t speak English, but we have more. At one time, our schools taught Latin. They did this because all of the more complicated words in English come from Latin, and it gave the students a better understanding of English. However, after time, they decided to make it more practical since Latin is a dead language. Spanish and French are both Latin languages, and now they give the students a choice between Spanish and French. They accomplish helping them understand English better and at the same time, teach them a language that is actually spoken.
They chose Spanish because from Mexico to the tip of South America, all the countries speak Spanish except Brazil who speaks Portuguese, but it is like a dialect of Spanish. If you speak Spanish, you can also understand Portuguese. The chose French because there are French speakers in Louisiana in the U. S. as well as in Canada. However, the French in Louisiana is not what they teach in the schools. They teach French like from France. Louisiana at one time belonged to the French, but the native speakers of French there speak a different French from what is spoken in France. I know because I tried to talk to one of them, and it was completely different.
In California, I saw where they were also offering German which was unusual, but good. I also saw where they were offering Chinese to elementary school students in New York. They said that Chinese was not the most widely spoken language, but that it had the most speakers of any other language and China is a powerful nation. They didn’t know what the future held, but if China got any more powerful, people would have to learn Chinese, and they were trying to be prepared. When I was teaching at the university in America, they asked me to teach Japanese, so I did, and I learned from those students that there was an online group of fans of Japan who were all trying to learn to speak Japanese. They liked anime and the computer games coming from Japan. I am learning here in Korea that many young people in America love K-Pop and Korean dramas now, and they are trying to find ways to learn Korean. Los Angeles is full of Japanese, Korean, and Spanish speakers. However, recently, I have learned that there is a Korean language and culture center in Oklahoma.
Most people know that the English all study French. Anyone who is sophisticated at all in England speaks French. In Canada, they also teach French because one of their provinces, Quebec, has French as its first language. Most of the country speaks English, but if you go to Quebec, from what I understand, you must speak French.
In Romania, they study English, French, German, and Hungarian. When I was there, they also began teaching Japanese. I probably taught the first Japanese classes in Romania, but after that, they began teaching it in the universities in Bucharest, the capital. There was a Japanese foundation who came to Romania to teach Japanese, and I was able to obtain a Romanian/Japanese dictionary. When I talked to the Romanians about having so many languages to study and everyone in the country, even farmers, trying to learn a foreign language, they said to me that they were a small country. They didn’t think anyone would learn to speak Romanian, so they tried to learn everyone else’s languages.
When I was in Hungary, initially, I couldn’t find an English speaker. Their second language was German. Under Communism, they did business with Germany, and the Germans have a lot of influence in Eastern Europe, so they studied German. However, in the 1990’s, they began teaching English in the universities in Hungary.
From what I understand, if you go to Austria, they speak a dialect of German. If you go to Austria, you might be speaking German or French either one.
Here in Korea, English is by far the most important foreign language. However, in the university where I was teaching, there was either an English major or a Chinese major. Some Koreans study Chinese or Japanese. Many of the older Koreans speak Japanese because they were occupied by Japan at one time, However, the young ones who learn it learn it because it is easier for them to learn than English. Some of them learn it because they like anime and computer games coming from Japan. However, English is by far the most important foreign language in Korea. If you are listening to announcements in stores or the subway close to the airport, they make the announcements in English, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.
In most Arab countries, they may teach English, but they also teach Arabic. Arabic is considered a holy language to the Muslims, and many think the Koran should only be red in Arabic. They feel like the translations of the Koran to other languages is a perversion.
Of course, any where you have schools of Christian Theology, you are going to have people teaching Greek and Hebrew. I have heard the Germans have been really good with Theology in the past, but I don’t know if they are still doing it. However, in Christian universities in America, in England, in Korea, in India, etc. I know they teach Greek and Hebrew for the students who study Theology. I was also told that since I liked Greek literature, that I couldn’t major in it unless I studied Greek, but I never studied Greek.The Greek the Theology majors study is not modern day Greek. It is the Greek that was spoken in New Testament times.
In Nigeria, all their schools are taught in English. Each begins at home speaking their tribal language, but when they begin school, all their schools are taught in English. If a Nigerian speaks English, it means they have been to school. Some Nigerians speak several languages. I met a man who spoke seven languages when I was there. There are three basic trade languages, Yoruba, Hausa, and Ibo. Those were the major languages people learned to speak before English came. They belong to the largest tribe in that area of the country, so they became trade languages. People would learn their tribal language, and then the trade language of where they lived. They still do it, and the whole country studies in English at school and speaks English.
My friends from India told me that India is like Nigeria. They have lots and lots of languages according to where you are from, but the only language that can unite them all is English. In Bangladesh, the students speak Bangla, and many study English at school, but even if they don’t study English at school, they learn to speak it anyway because they use it in public places. Their English may not be good, but they can communicate in English. That is how many countries function with English.
In Japan, English is the major foreign language. However, they hire the foreign English teachers because even though they can study English, trying to speak it is harder. In the university where I studied in Japan, they also taught French.
When I was in the Philippines, they speak three languages and mix them all together. When I watched one of their movies, the movie was in English, Spanish, and Tagalog. Tagalog is one of the native languages of the Philippines. They were at one time occupied by Spain, and Spanish is taught in their schools. However, the Filipinos I have met have a little of an understanding of Spanish, but really can’t speak it. Their best foreign language is still English. Most of them speak English.
When I was in Morocco, many Arabs could speak English. However, in the area of Morocco where I was, there was another language that many of them learned: French. the French used to occupy that part of Morocco. French is taught in schools. It was taught to me. Spanish is also taught in schools in Morocco. Our Arab neighbor we played with spoke Spanish she learned at school.
Other than these, as far as I know, English is still the preferred language to study around the world. America seems to be interested in lots of other languages, but English is their first language. If they are going to study a foreign language, it can’t be English. However, even though they study, many Americans don’t learn to speak those languages. When I was substituting in a Texas high school for the Spanish teacher, I was trying to teach the students to speak Spanish, so I was speaking Spanish to them. The Mexican principal called me in and asked me to stop speaking Spanish to the students because they didn’t have to learn to speak it, but just learn to read it, and that when I spoke Spanish, he thought it scared them. For many Americans, if they speak a foreign language, it is Spanish. The country I have seen who does the best with foreign languages is Romania. The desire to learn is widespread, and they learn lots of languages, not just English.