Gotta Love It

Read the greatest little article today.  It’s by a guy named Nicholas D. Kristof.  You can find it here:  He starts off with a quiz:  If a person who speaks three languages is trilingual, and one who speaks four languages is quadrilingual, what is someone called who speaks no foreign languages at all?    Answer: an American.

 Ugh–how pathetic!   Unfortunately, it’s mostly true (what an insular bunch this country is), but take heart, oh souls, there may be some change afoot.  At least, if he has anything to say about it, there could be.

His article is about how Mandarin Chinese is the cool language to teach American kids these days and how many of this country’s citizens are rushing headlong into trying to learn it.  Yes, Kristof says, Chinese is really the language to know for the future, and China will be a force to be reckoned with, but if Americans want to learn a foreign language that is immediate and practical, they’d better learn Spanish.  Hooray!  I love Spanish!

 Kristof argues that the Hispanic population of the U.S. is growing exponentially and within forty years will become nearly 1/3 of the residents here.  That combined with the interesting speculation that as Americans vacation and retire, more and more of them will be enticed to go to Latin America (think, Costa Rica, not just Mexico) where the healthcare, climate and living are easy–and cheaper–and that business opportunities will inevitably involve our neighbors to the south.  All this leads him to say that all America’s kids should learn Spanish–beginning in elementary school–period. 

He notes that anyway, Chinese takes four times as long to learn as Spanish does (it’s not just character driven but is grammatically remote from anything Western Europe has even dreamed of) and tonal based, to boot, so it makes sense to get us all on the Span-wagon before we jump off into the China sea.

Not coincidentally, guess which two languages have been in the most demand at Eloquence lately?  Yup, you got ’em–those two.

Any time anybody is gung-ho about teaching Americans a foreign language, man, am I on that team.  As his article title says, “Primero hay que aprender [el] español.  Ranhou Zai Xue Zhongwen.” — First  learn Spanish.  Then study Chinese.  


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