'Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.' H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Learning a foreign language, we are told, can be highly pleasurable. A month in a hot country, discussing gerundives over wine and olives - it's a far cry from chilly Portacabins on a wet Wednesday night. But many of us don't have time for evening classes, let alone a month abroad on company time. The solution could be on the web. Accessibility(in the office, at home, on an aeroplane) is one of the web's most useful features. Now you can log on to a language package that integrates text with audio files, graphics, dictionaries and international chat rooms. Is this the start of a language revolution that will dispel forever the image of the British as a linguistically challenged nation?
According to a recent poll, British men rated pronouncing foreign words as embarrassing as ordering a glass of wine in a pub. Appearing a bit 'foreign' just isn't macho. Listen to English sports presenters persevere year after year with their dogged mispronunciation of Spanish football teams Ajax(aye-axe) and Real(ray-al) Madrid.
All it really boils down is politeness - something that we normally uphold as a national characteristic. Politeness is an attitude that sits comfortably within the mind of the business person(others call it greasing up). And this is why you are probably reading this right now. Whether you're on an aeroplane with an important meeting on the horizon, or in the office doing some last minute swotting-up, a few words in the right place can work wonders. Maybe you've made this trip many times and your regular contacts abroad have, over the years, become friends as well as business associates. Or perhaps you will be liasing with new or future clients and have no idea whether they can speak English. So rather than rely on someone else to order the wrong food for you, why not master a few phrases and avoid eating jellied pig trotters altogether?
Spanish is spoken by over 250,000,000 people in Spain, the Americas, and Africa. The purest form of Spanish, Castilian, is one of the top business languages, and is more widely spoken than Latin-American Spanish within the business community. Some websites offer fee-paying long-term courses, others are just a free beginners guide with useful phrases and basic vocabulary. The following are the best of the free crash courses available on the web:
Clarity and efficiency are what puts this site at the top of the pile. Excellent for beginners, you'll find all the vocabulary and phrases that are necessary at this level. Categories include Meeting People, At The Restaurant, and At The Hotel. Audio files complement the text so that you can perfect your pronunciation. The quizzes, tests, and flashcards are excellently developed to maintain your interest while making an impression on your grey matter.
About.com: Learning Spanish back in 2000
Comprehensive but convoluted. Navigating around this mammoth site might swallow up a lot of your time, but what you put in equals what you get out - and this is what makes About.com a cut above many other big timers. If you want to develop your Spanish to an intermediate level, then this is the best site for explaining nasties like grammar and verb conjugation.
Travlang: Foreign Languages for Travellers
Limited but very easy to use. All words and expressions come with audio files although some sound like the speaker has a sock over his/her mouth. Six basic categories include Shopping/Dining, Hotels and Transport. A quiz for each category hammers home some of the more complicated phrases. Lacking in social settings like meeting and introducing people to one another.