Monday, 6 February 2012

Why David Thomas is so utterly wrong about why English students need not learn a foreign language

I was recently directed to a segment of the MailOnline’s website, RightMinds, and let’s just say that I was pretty disappointed by what I read. David Thomas, a journalist and author with a multi-lingual background argues that the 380,000 students in England who chose not to learn a foreign language are being sensible (it gets worse) because English is the second language of 85 per cent of Europeans.
This argument practically gives way to the idea that students in this country should be lazy; ‘Well they’re already doing it so we don’t have to.’ But the joke is not on them, it is on us. It is on those who truly believe that simply because others are learning our language that we should make no effort to learn another.

I struggle to understand the argument in any sense, especially as the journalist essentially nullifies his argument further on in his article by saying that due to writing books set in Germany, he now has “a tiny smattering of German, too”. When writing a book, you conduct detailed research on the area it will be set in, but learning any part of the language is, arguably, unnecessary especially if nearly everyone you’re working with speaks English anyway.

Regardless, Thomas continues to argue that learning a language is handy for proving on holiday “that you’re more sophisticated than the rest of the tourist herd.” What’s more, Thomas claims, “there’s absolutely no need to learn any one particular language unless you’ve got a specific professional use for it.”