Why do Certain European Countries Speak English Better than Others? A Close Look at the Spanish

Spain is a country renowned for its weather, beautiful beaches, friendly people and laid-back attitude.  It is also one of the top destinations for Britons going on holiday thanks to its proximity to the UK and lower cost of living.  But one of the difficulties for Britons, or in fact any other visitor – be it for holidays or for living and working in Spain – is the apparent difficulty Spaniards seem to have when speaking English.  Compared to other Western European countries such as Portugal, the Netherlands, or Germany, Spain seems to lag behind them in terms of English language proficiency.  This is particularly interesting as its neighbour, Portugal, with a shared common history, similar culture and language, seems to exhibit greater prowess when it comes to speaking the language of Shakespeare.

The problem lies, of course, not with the Spaniards themselves but with a number of reasons that impact their ability to learn and speak the English language with the ease of, say, the Dutch.  To start with, Spanish is a language with only five vowel sounds, and the stress and intonation differ widely from those of English.  This appears to restrict native Spanish speakers’ ability to easily adopt English sounds.  Also, Spaniards’ access to English language material is very limited.  Spain is one of only a handful of ‘dubbing’ countries in Western Europe, the others being France, Italy and Germany.  This means that almost all of their movies and TV shows are dubbed into Spanish as opposed to having subtitles with the original soundtrack.  The dubbing industry is so developed in Spain that some dubbing actors have achieved personal fame, being assigned to dub the same Hollywood actors exclusively throughout their careers.

While there is nothing wrong with this tradition, the problem that this represents for Spaniards willing to learn English is significant.  They often struggle as they only ever get to hear English if they go out of their way by visiting cinemas showing original version, acquiring pay TV, or taking Business English courses, but these are all very limited environments.  On the other hand, the Dutch receive lots of foreign content, even on national TV. Dutch children watch German and American TV programmes and, without realising it, they entertain themselves while simultaneously familiarising themselves with foreign languages from a very early age.

It is well known that the best way to learn or improve a foreign language is by being immersed in the culture of the desired language, being able to practice it and hear it constantly and on a daily basis.  The lessons learned in the classroom can thus be put into practice straight away, making learning the language a necessity, vital to interacting successfully with others, as well as relevant to daily situations. Tailored English courses such as Business English courses can help you to develop your language skills, regardless of your level or linguistic background and offer you the relevant tools to use English proficiently.

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