By Humphrey Carter
ENGLAND captain David Beckham, the most famous British expatriate currently living in Spain has finally made his first stab at speaking Spanish in public - 18 months after moving to Madrid.
Journalists at Tuesday night's press conference gave Becks a spontaneous round of applause for his efforts and, despite his blushes and ummms and aahs, has apparently won over many people in Spain as he provided the first evidence that he was beginning to use the language.
In Britain, where he still spends most of his time, he was praised for setting a good example to children with the Teachers Union claiming there will be a surge in interest in Spanish in schools.
But, considering he moved to Madrid 18 months ago and has the very best Spanish teachers and learning facilities at his disposal courtesy of Real Madrid, is his Spanish worthy of a round of applause? Or were the sports journalists just having a laugh at Beckham's expense, perhaps along with the millions of Spaniards who watched the interview on television at the expense of British expatriates living here.
Arwed Funck, director of the language centre at the abc-Knowledge Company in Bendinat where he teaches German and Spanish, the latter primarily to expatriates moving here, was not that impressed.
Had Beckham, for example, been on a 20 or 40 hour intensive course with us, his Spanish would be more advanced.
On the whole, even for people with no linguistic background and no knowledge of Spanish, after 40 or at least 60 hours, they're able to start looking after themselves.
Beckham's Spanish was very basic, it was all in the present tense and lacked confidence, he said yesterday.
However, Funck, who has worked with international footballers, including Russians and Romanians, was quick to point out that perhaps, Real Madrid have provided Beckham with too many language facilities, on both the learning and personal translation fronts, that he is finding it too easy.
I would presume he is learning on a one-to-one basis, but he still spends a lot of time in England and does not have too much contact with Spanish people, so he's never going to really practice his Spanish.
When he is on club duty he has a translator at his side, so why bother, Funck said.
I have known of Russian and Romanian players who, after 18 months here, have spoken Spanish almost like a native.
One also has to want to learn and speak the langauge, but if he's never going to get the chance, he's going to find it difficult, Funck added.
He doesn't have his translator for training sessions, but football speaks for itself, off the pitch he should be encouraged to make more of an effort and integrate.
His Spanish should be much more advanced by now, Funck added.
Language experts in the UK claim that Beckham's answers had been written beforehand and that he had merely learnt the script before the press conference.
Perhaps he should take abc up on their offer of a free intensive Spanish course.
And what about you the reader - how good was, or will be, your Spanish after 18 months in Majorca. Beckham standard?