Here’s a fun fact: being English isn’t always something you have to apologise for. I say this, because I usually find myself apologising for: colonialism, particular wars, anything we did in Scotland/Ireland/Wales (there’s no particular order to that list, my nationalist friends), David Cameron, Nick Griffin, Nigel Farage or indeed most EU-related topics. To be honest this list could probably go on indefinitely. I’m definitely not ashamed of my heritage, but I am all too aware that England isn’t the most popular of nations.
Perhaps it is somewhat ironic then that we speak one of the most popular languages on the planet (and that is certainly not through sheer volume of native speakers, like Chinese). As the language of business, diplomacy and often popular culture many speak English fairly proficiently as a second language. Even more have to learn it as part of their education whether they want to or not (I was surprised that my French flatmates who study various engineering-type subjects are expected to have a certain level of English too).
Thus I find myself sat on a veritable goldmine merely because of where I was born and who brought me up. Simply by doing something that comes naturally to me, i.e. speaking, I can earn some money. I went to a job interview to ‘teach’ English conversation classes and I’m pretty sure my success was partially down to my accent. People want to be able to speak to a native to see how I form sentences and pronounce various words (think about words like ‘through’, the ‘g’ makes no sense for pronunciation). Just being able to have a conversation with someone in a language you are learning for an hour really helps improve your ability.
Most of the time it’s slightly frustrating being English, not just because I have to apologise for my forefathers/idiots in power, but because it does mean people will often ignore your attempts to speak French and go straight to English. The whole point of my being here is to learn French and I often feel very pressured to be at a certain level by the end of the year. But this means I do understand how people who want to learn English feel. I do believe that it is important to find as many opportunities as you can to speak the local language; but if in order to finance that I have to spend a couple of hours a week speaking in my mother tongue I’m not going to worry!