Today, once again I recognized and opportunity to make myself a little smarter. And then I realized that there are those folks who would make the USA a dumber place. I am thinking of those who would make a single “Official Language” the only lingua franca. Fortunately, they have to spar with those greedy, money-grubbing corporations that insist on publishing the instruction sheets for their products in two, three, four and more languages. Me, cheapskate that I am, am not about to sign up for Rosseta Stone, Berlitz, or private lessons. I read the English instructions and then use the other instructions to increase my vocabulary in Spanish, French, occasionally German, or Italian. For example, did you know that “bain d’oiseaux” was French for “bird bath”. From there, the leap to “Bain de Soleil” is a short one, with a mid-air tumble to “Cirque du Soleil”. Do this enough and you might recognize that that “eaux” ending was a plural. So maybe multiple birds or multiple kinds of birds.
Lego and Playmobil have the richest offerings in the multi-lingual instruction. You can get important safety warnings in all of the above plus Greek, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish. IBM hardware offerings are even richer covering the Near Eastern and Far Eastern languages as well. Apparently, none of these products are marketed in the Vatican, the final bastion of Latin, much to my disappointment.
Around 1965, Tom Lehrer wrote in a song about a rocket scientist of the time:
You too may be a big hero
Once you’ve learned to count backwards to zero
“In German oder English I know how to count down
Und I’m learning Chinese,” says Wernher von Braun
[Copyright Tom Lehrer (talk about visionaries), Wernher Von Braun, from memory]
Perhaps I listened to the wrong music as a teenager.
So when someone suggests that we should settle on American English and only allow that, they may be just trying to take away one of your choices. And choice is freedom. Of course stupidity is a a choice. No current medical evidence shows that language instruction causes brain injury. Yet hundreds of school systems cut language programs to maintain the funding for football programs. Go figure.