We have met numerous people since our move to Amsterdam that are bilingual or trilingual. I know that due to the proximity of countries, cultures, and languages it is almost necessary (and easier) for Europeans to learn a second language but I am still embarrassed that my Spanish is not where it should be. Or that it’s taking an inordinate amount of time to pronounce Dutch words like the square where I live, Spui (you English speakers may think that word looks innocent but beware). I am also amazed at how many people speak English in Europe. I was expecting life to be more difficult. At our bed and breakfast in Italy we shared dinner with people from Spain, Italy, Japan, and China. They all spoke English. I found it incredible that in this small Italian coastal town we were able to have great conversations about our travels and observations of Italian food and culture.
On a similar topic. Most people believe that their native language is the most difficult language in the world to learn. Whether it’s because of the grammar, pronunciation, limited exposure…it doesn’t matter everyone likes to believe their language is hard to master. (Well not everyone but I have found multiple people from each language I encounter) The only concession that people make is for Mandarin. A Swiss German speaker may concede to being #2 in difficulty behind Mandarin. Although, we met two girls from China that tried to convince us Mandarin was easy to learn and write. I’m 100% sure they are wrong.