Last Saturday at Glebe Markets I talked to a pair of individuals who were speaking a language other than English. I talked to them in English and they said they were from Germany travelling in Australia, and were speaking German with each other. I asked about when they started learning English and what they used it for. Both the individuals said they started in primary school (most people in Germany do) and they had continued it all through high school. To me they seemed fluent, but with a noticeable accent. They said they used English to talk with people here in Australia, but also travelling in countries where English was more well-known than their native tongue, i.e where English was a lingua franca for tourists/travellers. One of the girls also said she sometimes posts on her Instagram in English, she said it was kind of ‘cool’ to have posts in English.
I asked the two about Glebe markets. They had found it when looking online for markets to go to in Sydney (they were in Sydney for a week). They found communicating relatively easy, as their English was strong, and found that they only used German between each other, and if they happened to meet any other German travellers.
This interaction opened me up to the idea of the function of the English language for tourists, especially at the markets. Is the English language something they consider part of their identity, or do they purely see it as a functional tool for communication when in English speaking or other foreign countries? I also found the integration of second languages in social media quite interesting, and that this challenged my original idea on English’s functionality.