Monday, 5 February 2007

Languages in schools

The proposal to teach Arabic and Mandarin in schools, instead of European languages, leaves me most uneasy. No key text of Western civilisation is in Arabic or Mandarin. If this really were about what "business" (the CBI) wanted or needed, then the teaching of modern languages would be discontinued entirely in this age of global Anglophonia. And the inclusion of Spanish in this category will do it no good at all: learning Spanish will be seen as about learning how to buy and sell timeshares, whereas learning French and (especially) German will be seen as properly academic. All in all, I am not impressed with this proposal. Is anyone else?


  1. You are quite right David about key texts of western civilization not being originally published in arabic or cantonese. However one might argue there are some key texts for the human species first delivered in these languages.

    Learning languages is a good thing for various reasons. And one of the least important is reading key texts for western cvilization in the original and inthese langauages.

  2. No, that is the most important reason, bar none, for people in the Western tradition, who must appreciate that tradition properly before they can begin to appreciate anyone else's, since they need to know what they are looking for.