Is Being a Native English Speaker an Advantage? or, on the Contrary, Is It Becoming a Disadvantage?

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Apr 15, 2019 20:06
Yesterday, when skimming through The Guardian online version, I came across an interesting article about the troubles that a British journalist finds when she is visiting a non-native English speaking country and says or asks for something in the language of that country but she is answered in hers.

Although this is not the first time that I read about or hear a person complaining about this fact, it is the first time that this complaint is made by someone I have not met on a website for language learners. When thinking about what native English speakers are like, we, non-native English ones, believe that they have no interest in learning a language that it is not theirs whatsoever. What is the point? Regardless of where they go, they will always be spoken in English. Children living in non-native English speaking countries learn how to speak English from early ages. For them, speaking English is more than a need, it is a must. The more they know how to speak English, the more opportunities they will have to find better jobs in the future. On the other hand, those who live in native English speaking countries usually, and excuse me if I am wrong, do not learn a second language. In fact, according to what some of them have told me, they are not even taught about their mother language grammar. So I have met British and American people whose English grammar knowledge was lesser than mine. And I firmly believe that my level of English is far from being good enough.

Returning to the article, the journalist writes about the many occasions on which she said or asked for something in, according to her, good French and was answered in English. Although, apparently, the other person’s English was worse than her French. She, the journalist, complains that not only has this fact happened to her when in troubles but also when, after finding courage enough, she just wanted to practise her good French. The journalist says that each time she tries it, she gets more demoralised. She understands that the people whom she is addressing do not want to be impolite but they just want to practise English at her expense. As I wrote above, this is the same complaint I have so many times heard from some of my native English language partners, who either have spent their holidays in Spain or are even living here. No matter if they ask in shops for items or ask in restaurants to be taken their orders or ask people how to get places, they are always answered, regardless of the level, in English.

I personally know how difficult it is finding people, especially native English speakers, with whom I can practise English. So I perfectly understand both complaints, the one made by the journalist in her article and the one made by my native English language partners, about not being spoken in their target language.