If you're totally mindboggled by the title of this post, it means 'do you speak English?' in French. I personally love the French. I love their language and the way it sounds, the way their words look, the nonchalant attitude that they seem to be famous for, the bloody history that led to the development of their current culture. If I could speak any other language besides English, it would be French.
What makes me sad about languages though is that so many people seem to be ignorant of them; it's no secret that the British don't really try to teach their children foreign languages, because all the other children around the world are expected to learn ours. Hardly seems fair really, does it? In France, children tend to learn the basics of the English language from a young age, before it becomes mandatory for most of them to study it formally in full time education. In the UK, we're told that there are other countries out there that speak a different language, are taught the odd phrase in primary school, turn those phrases into short essays in high school, and that's about it.
However it isn't just languages that we are ignorant of, it's the cultures too. Businesses intermingle all around the globe, and for a young graduate to be able to adapt quickly to this gloriously diverse environment, they need to be aware of the kinds of things people from other cultures do and do not practice. Of course, it can never be too simple; there is no book on how you can perfectly master the ways of the Germanic people overnight, but you can do your online research and just get to know the ways of their country a little. If you reverse the situation and imagine going to visit a branch of your company in some obscure European city, I'm sure you'd be absolutely thrilled if a business partner over there made small talk about something going on in Britain that makes you feel comfortable, close to home and welcomed.
In my perfect world, we'd all be multilingual. We'd all speak several dialects effortlessly as if our minds had a dial that could be turned onto a different setting. Sadly this isn't my perfect world and the English language cruelly demands the attention of many foreign tongues- yet all is not lost! There are so many courses, online, offline, free, paid, that offer tuition in foreign languages that just about anybody can dip their toes into and learn something wonderful; a window to an alternate reality. I have recently been re-immersing myself into the French I learnt when I was still in school, and I'm glad to say I absolutely love it. I get gratification from being able to list the days of the week in another language. If having that knowledge sitting in your head doesn't suffice though, take it back home; go and visit the place of its origin! You can experience the culture in a much more intense and vibrant way if you understand, even just partially, what's going on around you.
I believe knowledge and experience of foreign languages and cultures is the way forward. Everybody knows the world is merging and young graduates need to be one step ahead in the game.