I suppose I should be ashamed. After more than five years or so in Spain, my knowledge of the Spanish language is little more than rudimentary. Yeah, I’ve been to classes, but my capacity to speak the language is not really improving. I know enough to get by in day to day conversation and can decipher texts. But answering the telephone and comprehending a volley of rapidly spoken Spanish is the real test.
It does not help, of course, that everyone speaks English. So immersion is not really a possibility. And why would I watch Spanish telly when all the British programmes are available?
Furthermore, the Andalucians have their own version of the language. The waiters in the cafe near my apartment greet me with a cheerful “buon dia” every morning (closer to the Portuguese “bom dia” than the classical Spanish “buenas dias”), while the checkout girls at the supermercado thank me with a sing-song “grassia” - none of your Castilian lisp in this neighbourhood.
So I can have some sympathy with those immigrants to the UK who are being told that benefits will be denied unless they quickly learn to speak English. Just as well that I am not looking for employment.