Is English Too Easy For Hungarians?

Hungary’s government wants to dethrone English as the most common foreign language taught in Hungarian schools. The reason: It’s just too easy to learn.

“It is fortunate if the first foreign language learned is not English. The initial, very quick and spectacular successes of English learning may evoke the false image in students that learning any foreign language is that simple,” reads a draft bill obtained by news website that would amend Hungary’s education laws.

Instead, the ministry department in charge of education would prefer if students “chose languages with a fixed, structured grammatical system, the learning of which presents a balanced workload, such as neo-Latin languages.”

Besides giving a deceptive sense of achievement, English learning also makes acquiring other languages more difficult, the ministry argues. Reversing the order, on the other hand, makes learning English essentially effortless, it added.

“If someone is earlier taught another language, they’ll hardly notice that they can learn English alongside. This is because unfortunately, we use exclusively English words when talking about computers, international music and molecular biology,” Deputy State Secretary Laszlo Dux said in a radio interview on state radio station MR1 Kossuth.

Hungary’s government is attempting to make substantial changes to how foreign languages are taught in schools. The strategy in drafting stipulates that advanced, eight-grade high schools would have to teach three languages, while a language exam would be a prerequisite of applying for university- or college-level education.

And with good reason. A Eurostat survey from 2009 found that 74.8% of Hungarians aged 25 to 64 don’t speak any foreign languages whatsoever. Only 6% of respondents said they speak a second language fluently, which places Hungary at the bottom ranks of the European Union table. In comparison, only 5% of Swedes speak no other language but their native tongue.

Taken from The Wall Street Journal: 18.08.11