Ms. Cosslett tells us that knowing more than one language is a jolly thing to do. Indeed it is. And yet we’ve that same old lack of logic in the encomium.
Being able to speak more than one language has opened up whole worlds of experience and understanding – so it is particularly saddening then to see reports that Brexit is putting British pupils off studying modern foreign languages at school. Some parents have even told teachers that it’s useless for their children to learn another language now that the UK is leaving the European Union.
Some parents will say and believe absolutely anything. There’s no explaining the Labour Party otherwise now, is there?
As a Welsh speaker I have encountered a fair amount of linguistic ignorance: people saying that Welsh is pointless because it is a minority language that is rarely spoken outside Wales. I always tell them that speaking Welsh is what enabled me to become fluent in French after moving there when I was 18. Learning one language makes it easier to acquire others (the jump to Italian was less intimidating once I knew another romance language); you gain an understanding of linguistic structures and rules, of tenses and quirks and etymology.
Much of that is true. Having had to fight through why the grammar, say, of one language is different from that of another means that working out how the third differs is indeed easier. Of course, all of this would be much easier if the English education system actually taught the grammar of the English language, something it doesn’t in fact do. I managed to get through an entire education at expensive schools without ever being exposed to an actual language, as opposed to literature, lesson. Back in that distant, misty, past it was assumed that grammar would be picked up through Latin lessons, possibly Greek, there thus being no need to teach it in English. Today of course the insistence that all forms of expression are equal means nothing so restrictive as an insistence upon there being rules of anything.
However, to that skating over the logic that Our Dear Rhiannon is so good at. Her Welsh did not come through doing a GCSE in it. Nor, as she tells us, did her French. And yet she uses her non-GCSE training in languages – she was immersed in both, not taught them at school – to argue for GCSE in languages.
Sigh. Probably mansplaining to even point this out.