you're american, right, Cainad?
i got a few things to say about this .. first, if you wanna learn Dutch, don't come to the Netherlands
at the first hints of you having trouble with the language most dutch (especially the younger generation) will switch to english at the blink of an eye (and sometimes speak it better than some americans
), and you have to beg them for the patience to speak Dutch again
we learn a littlebit of english at elementary school (around ages 9-11), then in high school (ages 12-18) french and german gets added to that.
english is not necessarily only useful to speak with americans or english, but it also serves very well as a "shared language" to converse with people in all those other countries (failing that, add a bit of German in the mix and you're set). i've been to a lot of international (mostly european/scandinavian) symposia and meetings, and english is simply the default language in those places. so much, that often only after a few minutes people realize there's only dutch left in the group and can switch to their native language
i know some people in Brussels (working for the EU) who raise their kids speaking two or three languages (french/german/spanish, mostly) because at that age it's very easy for a kid to pick up languages and they become multi-lingual. it also helps that most marriages in among EU-personal are international already
any reports on those kids ending up confused and not even speaking one of the languages really well, are bullshit as far as my experiences go.
it helps that, in europe, there are only a few "obvious" choices for extra languages to learn: english, german and french. that may be the problem in america, you name a whole list of languages, but as you already say, in america spanish is the only genuinely useful one at that. in order to keep your language fresh, you need to be able to use it every once in a while.
> but German is useless once you find your way out of central Europe.
's funny cause in my highschool they taught us how *many* people *all over the world* speak German. kinda bullshit of course, but they wanted to motivate us to "why is this useful"
> It makes sense why europeans are so multilingual: you can go to 8 different countries in a week, just driving in a
> straight line.
ok, first off, you need to understand, europeans generally don't really do this very often. maybe once a year on vacation, but for example the Dutch generally just drive to France (dutch, dutch/flamish, belgian-french, french), or simply take the plane to some warm holiday-destination (where they speak Dutch, German or English, generally, because of tourism).
it's a bit of a cultural difference between the US and Europe, i think, you tend to think of a day or two worth driving as a lot less big deal than Europeans do. hence my continual surprise at americans coming to europe, staying in Amsterdam and making roadtrips to Paris, Prague, Venice, etc. (sure, can't blame em, you came all the way to Europe and of course you wanna see most of it, but still
second, the actual reason why we are so multilingual is TV. this is how i learned english. you learn to read Dutch and watch American and English shows and movies with Dutch subtitling. do that a few hours a day when you're a young kid and you automatically pick up the language. [interesting side-note: in India, they are starting programs of "same-language subtitling", Indian shows with Indian subtitles, in order to improve literacy]. when i was taught english in school i thought "this is stupid i already know this", in fact one of my highschool teachers thought i was in fact very dumb because i couldn't bring myself to answer his "dumb" questions like "what day is today?" with serious answers so i tried to be funny and came up with nonsensical shit like "a bike"
i kinda wish i watched more German shows when i was young, though.