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Suddenly, we all want to speak in tongues

 
 
Reply Sun 23 Jul, 2006 01:59 am
In today's Observer (page 23, ONLINE HERE) there's an interesting comment, observing changes in Britsih attitudes towards learning foreign languages:

Quote:
Football managers, comedians ... the famously monoglot British are rushing to learn languages.
[...]
Everyone knows the average Briton has the linguistic talent of a Jaffa Cake. The latest survey for the European Commission found that 62 per cent of UK respondents could speak only their mother tongue, against an EU average of 44 per cent. In Luxembourg, only one per cent lack a second language. Employers surveyed by the Association of Graduate Recruiters this month declared language skills 'unimportant'.
[...]
Language is not just about communication, but about identity too. It is here, for the British, that the barriers really lie. Few countries are more obsessed by their own nature, or less certain of it. Shall we have citizenship classes, or give incomers such arbitrary tests of national fealty that you might as well ask how many holes there are in a crumpet? Should we have Gordon Brown Day and reclaim the Union flag? Should we let Scotland and England drift asunder, and, if not, what is to be done?

New research showing that British men are genetically German, with a Y chromosome identical to Holsteiners in more than 50 per cent of the population, has provoked a froth of assurances that the Rottweiler will never replace the bulldog and that the glorious British soul remains inviolable. But what, exactly, is this 'soul?' Countries that agonise as much as Britain to define what patriotism means are only ever certain about what it is not.

It is not, in protectionists' view, the EU with its federalist dreams, straight bananas and suspicious liking for human rights. It is not Bratwurst, snails or any other gravy-free main course, and it is certainly not about Neanderthal Brits becoming the Renaissance men of the Algarve. Globalisation has not quite expunged the British suspicion that there is still something vaguely unpatriotic about speaking foreign languages.

Though few ordinary Britons would take such a view, arcane nationalism has a long institutional shelf life. In France, the right-wing pretender to the presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy, argues in his memoir, Témoignage (Testimony), that citizens must speak more English and work harder if they want to emulate the lifestyle of the British.

This blow against the big state is a bitter message, especially when Jacques Chirac is trying to prop up the republic by seeing off the cyber-invaders of Google with a French search engine. The President dreams in vain, and Sarkozy, who is right about almost nothing, is correct in telling France it must look outwards. So must Britain, despite linguistic skills that stop at a chorus of 'Alouette'.
[...]
Unless Britain abandons its monoglot ways, it will never know its identity or seize its future.
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fresco
 
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Reply Sun 23 Jul, 2006 02:50 am
Walter,

Simultaneously, as we have already discussed elsewhere, "English" itself seems to be "at the mercy of" dilution by immigrants and political correctness. It is ironic to me that millions are spent by foreigners for short courses in the UK, yet many of those born in the UK to immigrant families have an abmysmal grasp of the language. As stated in the article, language has much to do with identity. Maybe Brits are at last becoming more European, whilst some immigrants remained trapped by their own parochial cultural norms.
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Walter Hinteler
 
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Reply Sun 23 Jul, 2006 04:45 am
And this, in opinion, hinders Britons to learn another language or stimulates them?

And, since you say nothing about that, do you think it to be a good idea that even Britons learn a foreign language or everyone just learn English so they could talk to them?
Quote:
Unless Britain abandons its monoglot ways, it will never know its identity or seize its future.
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fresco
 
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Reply Sun 23 Jul, 2006 06:37 am
Whilst English remains a Lingua Franca I do not think the majority of Brits will learn more than a smattering of another language. It is interesting to speculate on the effects of global communications in spreading the need for a Lingua Franca whose final form will not be current "standard English". Opposed to this trend we see reactictionary forces of sub-cultures endeavouring to shore thenselves up against cultural "pollution".
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