If somebody has something important to tell me, he can do that in English, and if he doesn\’t want to do this, then that something probably wasn\’t that important in the first place, simple as that. The English language is perhaps the most underrated bozo filter currently in existence, silently blocking out tons of idiocy.

10 thoughts on “Quite”

  1. Hmm. I’ve not noticed any particular lack of idiocy from English-speakers.

    (I’m also frankly baffled at his rant about him being expected to learn Foreign but foreigners not being expected to learn English – you’d have to live in a bizarre inversion of the real world for that to be true…)

    Tim adds: It gets better: he’s a Finnish immigrant to Canada, he’s already writing in his second (if not third) language.

  2. “I’ve not noticed any particular lack of idiocy from English-speakers.”

    Well, I didn’t claim that there is no idiocy in English. I said that if nobody bothers to translate something into English, then that something probably wasn’t that great in the first place, let alone essential for me to read. This makes English to work as an idiocy filter for idiocy that origates in other languages.

    There is already so much knowledge available in English that telling an English-speaker that he should learn other languages is like telling a man who is constantly blasted by a fire hose that he needs to build a rainwater collection system to ensure that he doesn’t run out of water.

    Notice also how this discussion is taking place in English, somewhat reminding me of all those logical proofs that show that logic is invalid.

    “I’m also frankly baffled at his rant about him being expected to learn Foreign but foreigners not being expected to learn English”

    It was not a rant, but a logical observation that if foreigners are expected to learn English, then there is no need for me to learn their language since I can communicate with them in English. On the other hand, if foreigners are not expected to learn English, then I don’t have a reciprocal duty to learn their language either. Either way, I conclude that I don’t need to learn their language, QED.

  3. Ilkka, writing as you are as a none native speaker of English your logic certainly rings true. However I feel it is important for native English speakers to learn a foreign language, any language. You see many of us aren’t/weren’t taught grammar in English schools and learning a foreign language is the only time we are introduced to it. Not only that but it provides other cultural and general benefits and it is said bilingual people have higher brain function.

    I’ll take the opportunity to mention an anecdote from when I visited Finland that Tim might enjoy. Speaking to the Argentinian husband of a Finnish woman who wrote children’s books he told me that her profession was one that offered tax exemption yet she chose to pay income tax. He thought she was a bit barmy and when he asked her what the hell she was doing she replied that if she didn’t pay then who would pay for the libraries.

    Taxation by choice rather than force, what a wonderful idea! If the government is crap you don’t bother paying them.

  4. I’m with Winston on this. I have taught in classrooms where the teenagers thought a past participle was one of your ancestors.

  5. Everyone learns grammar by exposure to language . You’re talking about the ability to discuss the features of grammar, which is pretty pointless unless you happen to be a linguist .
    Also, anyone who complains about the evolution of language should read chaucer again.
    Its inevitable.

  6. “Everyone learns grammar by exposure to language”

    Not meaningfully, in this context. The inability to use syntax to shape any expression less than the most simple is a major source of frustration and violence in some sections of the population. It also condemns some people, generally selected by income and class, to seeming stupid every time they communicate. Thus it is that a well intentioned lack of tuition discriminates against the most vulnerable.

  7. The argument against foreign language acquisition can be couched in economic terms: learning a foreign language is among the hardest things that normal human beings do, so the opportunity cost is large. It’s taken me nearly ten years to become effectively bilingual in English and Spanish (conversational fluency took a lot less), and had I not moved to a Hispanophone country it is hard to see how that investment of time and effort would have been justified. One can certainly claim cultural and intellectual benefits from learning a non-English tongue, but to berate people for making the choice not to devote the necessary resources to learn is like shouting at people because they don’t spend all their spare time playing with model trains.

  8. Uh… i’d imagine that the major source of violence and frustration isn’t that they are jealous of your perfect grammar but that they’re fed up with your sermonizing. Either that or they want to rob you.
    The problem here (perhaps imagined by you) isn’t that the poor don’t have a perfectly functional language with which to communicate – its just that the dialect they use signals that they are poor.
    http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/1994_01_24_thenewrepublic.html

    Even if some hypothetical poor but intelligent lad didn’t have the ability to communicate in standard English, the best way for him to learn it would not be by learning grammar rules (which are impossible to use at the required speed) but by being exposed to the language in all of his other classes.
    The way we all learn languages.

  9. I’d imagine that the major source of violence and frustration isn’t that they are jealous of your perfect grammar, but that they are fed up of your sermonizing.
    Or they want to rob you.
    The problem (perhaps imagined by you) isn’t that the poor don’t have a language with which to communicate, but that their dialect signals that they are poor. Wouldn’t it be better to challenge the class discrimination which reduces opportunities for such people?
    Even if some hypothetical intelligent but poor lad arrived at school unable to communicate in standard English, the best way to teach him wouldn’t be by drilling grammar rules into him. Grammar rules are impossible to use at the speed required for natural communication. He’d be beetter off by learning through exposure to standard English in his other classes. The way everyone learns English.

    *apologies if this is a repeat post – it ate my first one!

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