In which I make America a wiser place

Considered opinion from the New York Times:

America would be a wiser country if we had more people who knew how to translate “doorknob.”

This is the would be paper of record remember. Still, anything to help:

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8 thoughts on “In which I make America a wiser place”

  1. The Pedant-General

    I’m trying to resist asking whether it would also be wiser if it knew how to translate – or perhaps simply communicate to the NYT – the word “knobend”?

  2. Amazing I can speak pretty good Spanish – I have translated sermons for my mother in law when she has come here and gone to church with us -and I have never once needed to know that.

  3. Although I do think if we had non Muslims from a Muslim country (e.g. Iraq) in charge of our immigration policy we would be a lot better off.

  4. So what is it in Portuguese, Tim?

    Round my neck of the woods it’s ‘manilla’, but it’s really not something that crops up terribly often.

    The whole article is utter crap, to boot. Unless you need a foreign language to work or live, learning one is a waste of time (I have nothing against people wasting their time — on their dime — but for some reason foreign language skills are fetishised out of all proportion to their utility.)

  5. I don’t think learning languages is a waste of time. They are easily the most valuable thing I’ve studied. Certainly, if you think that studying history, art, philosophy, or any other area of human endeavor outside of hard sciences has any utility, which you may not, learning other languages is incredibly useful.

    However, the way languages are taught in schools is indeed an utter waste of time.

  6. If you study another language, you learn more about your own. Unless you are terminally unreflective.

  7. I speak one language natively, one to translator grade, four to read-a-newspaper level, and one to order-in-a-restaurant level. Yes, it’s been intellectually and spiritually uplifting putting in the effort to get this far, but for most people there are skill-sets along any given axis of utility you choose that give you more bang for your buck than foreign language acquisition. As our gracious host would no doubt concur, learning any given ability has an opportunity cost.

    Tim adds: Quite. When I’ve “had” to learn a language, I have. I was perfectly happy having business meetings, proofing contracts, in Russian. When I’ve not had to I’ve learnt something else instead.

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