Why doesn’t everyone just speak English?

In order to answer this question in Monday’s Assembly we took two very different standpoints. A vlogger named Madison asked a series of questions (which we hope are parodies) as to “why doesn’t everyone just speak English”, while a twenty year old hyperpolyglot named Tim impressed us with his ability to speak so many languages, but more importantly he demonstrated how quickly he was able to build up rapports and respect with the people he met thanks to the fact that he had made an effort to speak their language and learn about their culture.  We saw how difficult English can be to learn (English is crazy!) and then reflected upon why so many people appear to learn it so easily –  American and British culture is global these days, so lots of people watch films and TV series in English with subtitles or listen to songs in English. Maybe we should be reversing this technique to help us learn foreign languages?

Finally, we heard President Obama’s thoughts on the subject of languages (Obama on languages). This is why we think that languages are so important at Bedales. Students start by learning two languages in Block 3 (with a choice from French, German, Latin, Spanish or Russian.  Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Russian can be studied on a private basis). Students learn the same key skills with each language, learning about two new different ways of being, while also learning more about how their own language works. We are equipping students with the skills to go off and learn other languages in the future as we want them to be confident global citizens. If everyone in the world is speaking their own language and learning English we do not want our students to be left behind only ever having learnt one language.

By Peter Thackrey, Head of Modern Languages


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

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