We’re still out in the sunshine. It’s Billy’s first ever holiday and we’ve already spent several days by the
pool. We’ve bought him a little boat and a life-jacket and he’s been happily navigating the pool as captain of
his own blow-up ship. It’s great to see his face as he experiences all these new things, so we decided to go to
the beach yesterday so he could play in the sand.
The beach was a little busier than normal because it was the weekend, but we grabbed a spot and started making
sandcastles with his bucket, spade and rake. Within a few minutes other children surrounded us. It seems that a
fair majority of the parents were laid on the sand, enjoying the sunshine whilst the children kinda just sat
around by themselves. We soon had the majority of the kids around us and one Spanish girl took Billy’s bucket to
help with the sandcastle building. This wasn’t great for Billy – he’d had his bucket taken away and he kicked
off. After a bit though he settled back down and enjoyed digging with his hands in the sand and burying his
legs. Unfortunately our grasp of the Spanish language doesn’t stretch very far, so we couldn’t respond to
everything the little girl said. She didn’t understand why and kept on chatting to us regardless. Another girl
was also talking, but I couldn’t grasp what language it was.
Eventually a girl arrived to help with the moat we were building around the castle. She was obviously English,
and started asking us how old Billy was etc. She was about 8 or 9, perhaps 10 at most. We asked if she was on
holiday but she told us that she lived here with her family. Then, in perfect Spanish, she started speaking to
the first girl and, in a another language, to the second. I asked her where the second girl was from, but she
didn’t know, “She speaks Portugese though”.
This is when, as a Brit, you start to feel small. Although our schools back home teach languages like Spanish,
German, French etc they’re not enforced or maintained – they weren’t when I was at school any way. Sure, I
learned a fair amount of French at school but this girl could say more than just, “Hello, I want to find the
After a short while I resorted to using her as a translator, asking her to ask the first girl for the bucket.
“Could you ask if we could get the bucket back please?”, I’d say, “Sure”, she’d respond, before speaking to the
girl and having her respond. She didn’t translate it back, and it’s perhaps the most depressing thing for me to
have to say, “What did that girl say? Could you translate? I can only speak English?”.. to an 8-year-old girl.
We had a great day, but Great Britain really needs to become part of Europe properly. The Euro is easy to
understand and everyone seems to use it apart from us. Plus, although I’ve only gained a few examples during my
trips into Continental Europe, it seems that a huge majority of people speak at least two languages as default
and it’s taught very early on, in First School. Why the hell are we still only speaking one? Speaking to a small
girl who’s not even old enough to be in Secondary School, but can speak three languages, is simply shocking and
a bit depressing at the same time!