Some time ago, Mini Dubbeldam, one of our longest standing members, asked me if I knew how many different nationalities were represented among our members and how many languages they spoke. Well I didn’t, but I thought other members would also be interested so I had a look at our data base.
I soon realized that what we had on record did not lend itself very well to analysis but I ploughed on and took all I read literally for the purpose of this article. Quite early in the alphabet I came across a couple who seemed to be not merely stateless, or at least stated no nationality, but also dumb, or at least they did not admit to speaking any language. Yet I have personally heard the lady chatting away in several languages in a British accent and the gentleman seemed not at all dumb when I have met him at our computer group. Of our 446 regular members, no less than 109 are apparently afflicted with both these disadvantages. I say regular members because I excluded honorary members such as ambassadors and former club presidents not resident in Andorra. I did include our associate members who only sing, though how some of them do is a bit of a mystery, as they seem to be disproportionately afflicted by the lack of a tongue and a nationality.
Particularly in the case of family memberships, I had to establish some rules for counting. If more than one language was stated, I assumed that both members speak all the languages listed. This may have led to an overstatement of the number who speak less common languages, such as Malay. If two nationalities were stated, I assumed that they had one each. If a single member claimed two nationalities, I just listed the first stated. If anyone feels offended that I did not count him (or her) as twice as valuable, I can only point out that I, too, could only count myself once, despite legitimately having two passports.
The strangest results are the large number of people who do not admit to speaking the language normally associated with their own nationality. Thus, of our 229 British members, only 141 claim to speak English. Actually, it is even worse than that, as the 141 include those who claimed to speak “British”, with apologies to those who speak Welsh, all of whom also speak English. I would also be willing to apologise to any who speak Gaelic but the only Gaelic speakers are to be found among our 7 Irish members. Only our 5 Spanish members and our two New Zealanders all speak their respective countries’ official language. The next most likely to speak their countries’ language are our 9 German and 9 French members; in each case seven of them do, but 8 speak English. They are closely followed by the 21 Dutch of whom 16 speak English and the same number speak Dutch, and I happen to know that we really do have one Dutch national who does not speak Dutch. The strangest case is our 13 Danish members only 4 of whom claim to speak Danish but 5 speak English. The 10 Canadian members, of whom 6 speak French and 4 English, and the 6 Belgians, of whom 5 speak French and 3 speak Dutch, are a special case.
In summary, our British members are not quite as poor linguists as they are reputed to be: 71 speak French, 58 Spanish, 16 German and 5 Italian and, between them, 15 other languages. Our total membership speaks 27 languages (counting Swiss German separately) and comes from 19 countries.
Regards Charles Schaller-Kelly, July 2008