Friday, 18 November 2011

Thick Britain: monolingual (if not monosyllabic)

It's easy to accrue data on how ignorant the proverbial man in the street is, although the accuracy of such data is often debatable. Young people certainly seem to know very little about anything other than themselves, and anecdotal scraps of evidence pile up around me. So I am not surprised to read in the Daily Mail that two out of three British people claim not to know a single foreign word.

Such a notion is, in one way, preposterous. Our language is built out of foreign words. To know English is thus to know Latin, French, German, Dutch etc, and then there are all the additions, such as 'kosher', 'assassin', 'tsunami', which have been assimilated.

Elsewhere in that report it states just under half of older people are happy to try to speak the lingo when abroad, but those people were schooled in a different age, before the influence of belly-button gazing, child-centric methods completely took over.

When the teaching of facts is systematically stripped out of education, and replaced with the concept of self-expression, it's no wonder so many youngsters are incapable of conjugating a foreign verb, regular or irregular, or even recognising the French for 'hello'. Rousseau would most likely be very proud of these 'noble savages', notwithstanding the gulf of incomprehension which would separate him from them.

No comments: