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September 12, 2013

Should We Insist On English?

I love the English language.

Because of my deep familiarity and extended study, I can delve into the nuances and cultural (as well as historical) references.

I can express - and make associations - using words, phrases and metaphors.

In short...

...I can use simple and familiar words to frame more complex, even abstract, thoughts.

Many of these are lost in translation - but many are also enriched by contact with other languages.

I am always struck by how much cultural depth a familiar word or phrase may hold - a meaning only a native speaker would recognize.

Unfortunately, I am only fluent in English, but I know a bare minimum, what I might call survival level, in several languages.

When I travel, or when I work with someone from another language, I often find myself frustrated because I know that they have an area of skill or expertise, but they may not always know the English word to show me that they know it.

It turns out that mere linguistic ability can be the single factor that dictates whether any given student can get into a preferred school.

But is that really how we should judge potential students?

Would Albert Einstein have passed an English entrance exam?

As you study, or teach, English, or any language, I'd encourage you to take a look at this TED Talk by Patricia Ryan - http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_ryan_ideas_in_all_languages_not_just_english.html.

She brings three decades of teaching experience to her thoughts and words on the place of English on the global stage.

Take time to take delight in your discoveries and be sure to send me any language usages or historical nuances that interest you, and be sure to let me know what it is about language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

Morf

Posted by mmorf at September 12, 2013 01:12 PM

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