August 25, 2010

Speaking in Tongues

Our Hollywood brethren have broadcast the myth that the essential qualifications for manliness can be boiled down to the bicep and the grunt, and the influence of this stalks our streets all too evidently, its knuckles knocking the sidewalks. It has been particularly effective in the English-speaking world, where the idea of intelligent writing has been reduced to such choice phrases as ‘Gr8 2 c u’. I shudder. Helping all this along is the prevailing Anglophone cultural arrogance that usually makes us unilingual. We readily dismiss the majority of the globe’s people since they are unable to speak English. And this is our loss.

I confess to being a victim of the aforementioned arrogance. At school, French was introduced at age 11, but the tuition was pitched at the least able, and the least able was unfortunately illiterate in English. Not much hope there. German began at 13, with similar ineffectiveness. The education system being what it was, nobody was compelled to continue with these foreign tongues after the age of 14. Even then, there was no clear idea put forward for why learning these languages might be an advantage. Since then, moves have been afoot to steer certain people away from language learning altogether because it is ‘not useful’. To that end, we might well dispense with school completely, and send young boys of a particular station down the mines at age 12.

Not if I can help it.

I am attempting to correct my own shortcomings, which I greatly regret, and doubtless another spell in Germany won’t do me any harm. For those youngsters currently progressing through school, certainly our first priority is to improve their English. But we should dare also to push them to engage with the other, for in teaching them to speak in tongues, we shall improve their brains. And if we improve their brains, we may make better men (and women) of them.

5 comments:

  1. 2b r not 2b. Hmmmm. You, as always, have struck a chord in my own thoughts. Thank you for expressing it so well. OMG!

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  2. Thank you James. And I hope you manage to work out which pencil to use soon (for I can think of no other acceptable usage of 2b). Am I right in thinking that masses would here say ';-)'?

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  3. Pencil, good one I will have to remember that one!

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  4. Although I never had to take a language in school, I took a year of Latin in University, and am working on French and Italian for my own benefit and Spanish for job opportunities in the future.

    I do like emoticons for those that aren't as proficient in writing and need some extra tonality expressed in their writing. i.e. :)

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  5. Good for you Rhubarb. Quite the challenge to take on all of that. Emoticons no doubt have their place, but that place seems like everywhere at the moment.

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