4.0468 The Importance of Learning Languages (1/21)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 10 Sep 90 17:51:33 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0468. Monday, 10 Sep 1990.

Date: Sun, 09 Sep 90 11:59:51 EDT
From: Clarence Brown <CB@PUCC>
Subject: Lehigh Low

I read in the papers today (New York Times, 9 September 1990) that
Lehigh University has abolished the language requirement. Truth to
tell, I read only the headline, feeling little need for the details. At
my age, I have encountered the details many times already, and they
seldom offer the interest of novelty. My purpose is to invite comments
on the following observation.

The abolitionists at Lehigh doubtless number among their arguments the
fact, and it is a fact, that few students of "French" ever learn to
speak French. Better, they doubtless think, let them spend their time
on something they really need--English. Here is the rebuttal that can
almost never be inserted into the minds of such reasoners: studying
"French" is a splendid way of learning English. Those confined to
English cannot see it. They know it as they know the inner recesses of
their consciousness--instinctively, but not as a thing to be spoken of.
The only way to know English with that form of knowledge that allows one
to control it is to know also at least one thing that is NOT English.
"French" will do, though its difference from English is too slight to be
of much help. Tagalog is better. Japanese is nice.

Clarence Brown, Comparative Literature, Princeton. CB@PUCC