Big debate this morning over foreign languages in the pages of the New York Times. This time, it’s the economist Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard from 2001 and 2006, who’s sparked the polemic. This is the same Mr. Summers who became famous in 2005 for declaring that the reason women are under-represented in engineering and in science is because of a “different availability of aptitude at the high end.”
This time, Summers is applying a simplistic analysis to language. In an article titled “What You (Really) Need to Know,” Summers coughs up a number of common place ideas about the future of education. In his fifth point, he argues that learning and speaking a foreign tongue is no longer worth the investment. Why? Because English will do the job.
The diverging opinions are worth reading, all the more so since evidently not all Americans share Mr. Summers’s point of view.
What do you think?
Read Lawrence Summers’ article »
The New York Times debate »
Starting today, Jean-Benoît will act as editor-in-chief of the Forum mondial de la langue française’s blog (The French Language World Forum). Every week, through interviews, photos and videos, an exciting new entry will be posted on French language from around the world. For the latest news on French language and culture, this is a blog worth bookmarking.
About the Forum: www.forumfrancophonie2012.org
Jean-Benoît Nadeau in the press room of the Forum mondial de la langue française (The French Language World Forum), which was held from July 2nd to 6th in Quebec city
On January 18th, Julie Barlow was the guest speaker at the Editors’ Association of Canada’s Speaker’s Night. She shared her knowledge, experience and tricks. Information: www.editors.ca
On January 14th, The New York Times published a very interesting article by writer Michael Erard explaining why the assumption that the U.S.A. is mainly a monolingual country is flawed.
He raises the key point that the United States Census Bureau only asks households what language they speak at home rather than a more telling question like, “Can you have a conversation in a language besides your mother tongue?” Until that is the case, Erard argues that “claims about American monolingualism will almost certainly be overstated.”
Read the article here »
Babel No More by Michael Erard
Who is predisposed to learn new languages? Michael Erard’s book, Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners, will answer that question.
The book came about after Erard wrote an article for a pop science magazine that aimed to explain the science behind hyperpolyglots (people who can speak six or more languages). He realized how much more could be researched and written about the fascinating topic of language superlearners.
For more information:
By Julie Barlow
January 11, 2011, EMSB Commissioners voted unanimously to take Nesbitt School OFF the list of closures for 2012.
Along with a group of other parents, Julie has been fighting for the last nine months to keep her daughters’ school open. The struggle has been epic. We did interviews for TV, radio, newspapers and magazine, in English and in French, for both local and national media. We maintained a blog and a Facebook page. We lobbied commissioners. We convinced politicians of all stripes and all levels to support us. And much more.
It’s been a long and hard battle, especially since we never knew why our school was on the chopping block in the first place. Nesbitt did not fit any of the “criteria” the EMSB had established for deciding which schools to close. Nesbitt is a big, successful, thriving school with a reputed and popular French immersion program, fabulous facilities, a central location, and harmonious, diverse community. Kids become perfectly bilingual at Nesbitt. There’s almost no bullying. No school is perfect, but we feel Nesbitt is about as close as you can get. Read more »
The roots of argot go back as far as those of standard French. In the fifteenth century, Argot was the name of a crime syndicate of brigands, thieves and killers who spoke together in jargon (a deformation of the Norman word garg, throat). Jargon was not a language so much as a system of words that criminals used so they couldn’t be understood by anyone outside the group, in particular the bourgeois and aristocrats they robbed and the authorities who pursued them. By the seventeenth century the bourgeois referred to this criminal jargon as argot. Read more »