Working hams around the world reminds me how lucky we English-speakers are. Most hams who work DX or are on D-Star also speak English. Some are fluent, while others speak only enough English to get through a basic exchange. But, why don’t more of us Americans speak foreign languages? It is probably because we don’t have to – English is the most common second language in the world (French is second) so when we travel or do ham radio, we can get by. I recall a Chinese couple, now married, who were students at Georgia Tech. One spoke Mandarin and the other, a different dialect of Chinese, so they could not speak to each other except in English.
The most widely-spoken language in the World today is Mandarin and for many years English was second but now Spanish is number two. But, English is still rated as the most influential language in the World.
It can be handy to know a second language, even as a lucky American. The number of us who are bilingual is pretty low, around 18 percent, versus some fifty percent in Europe. I speak enough French to get around, and am studying Italian and Spanish, just for the heck of it. Speaking some French means I can go to small villages in France where, unlike the bigger cities and tourist spots, English is not available, and still get along. My crowning achievement though was once in a small B-and-B in Italy where the proprietor spoke only Italian and some French, and me, no Italian and some French. It was very gratifying to converse and get directions from him in French. Give it a try – duolingo.com is a very good, and free, website for language learning. It features three-minute segments, which is perfect for my attention span!