Mai Yamani

Another rant: on foreign language classes in high school

gpiiretu requested the charming habit of American schools to not offer foreign languages until high school.


I'm sure that most if not all of you wondered, whilst you were still in grades K-12--if you have, in fact, escaped yet--whether the curriculum had been designed for any other purpose other than to cause you pain and suffering, draining from you even the will to live, much less learn anything ever again. And the answer is, no. No, it wasn't.

After all, if foreign language classes were actually designed to, you know, help you acquire a foreign language, they would start you out young. Little kids pick up languages about as naturally, if not quite as rapidly, as breathing. The older they get, the less able they are, until finally their brains become adult, and picking up a foreign language is about as hard as it can possibly be for them, at least until they become senile.

So, when does the typical American school begin offering foreign language classes? Yup, you guessed it! Roughly when it starts being as difficult as it can possibly be! Not everyone is equally handicapped at this point in their developmental stage, of course, but everyone, even that obnoxious girl who never studied, skipped a year, and always pulled A pluses (er, yes, that would be me) could have done much better if they had started earlier!

You've probably heard the old joke before: What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks one language? American. Hardly any wonder, is it, when our education system sets people up for failure and a corresponding fear of non-English languages!

Bah. School is designed to discourage learning.
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Je suis d'accord.
I used to intend to marry a frenchman, but you can see how that didn't quite happen. Maybe we'll get a spanish maid or be stationed overseas when my children are in their formative years. Barring that, they'll get tutored in childhood.
You know, if you ended up in Japan, that'd be a pretty damn cool language for them to pick up ...
Oh yes. Any alternate alphabet would be good, even if it's just greek or cyrillic. But japanese is even better.
Ryukyuan is the language of the Ryukyus, including Okinawa. It is in the same language family as Japanese but it is not Japanese. It's written phonetically with katakana instead of with characters. But it's not prestige and it's not written much.
I suppose "It hasn't prestige" would be better there. Not sure what I on thinking the contraction would work that way.
Do you have something against the perfectly good adjective 'prestigious'?
No, but I was also thinking along the lines of "prestige language." This is why I should continue to take a longer time on comments. :)
I wonder what the most popular languages to learn would be among, say, American third through seventh graders, if we ignore just for a moment the relative number of competent teachers of those languages affecting which ones that schools offer. I can imagine Japanese and Spanish would be the two most popular; what else?
Certainly those two would be huge these days. I think I would have (still) gone for French and/or Italian at that age, myself.
You know, I went to a private school where we learned French from kindergarten on up, and I'm definitely lucky. Of course, the kids I teach can't speak ENGLISH, much less French or Spanish.... I'm certified to teach French, but I almost believe that it would further screw up their spelling and grammar... *sigh*

But I don't think it's like that everywhere... I think they're a product of poor elementary teachers.
Oh dear. I can just imagine the kind of answers you'd get if you gave them a French test ...

Mlle Apel voulay vous coushey avec moi se soir? XXOO
LOL... yeah, more than likely. But the good news is that when I wrote back, "Austin, tu est un petit cochon..." they really wouldn't have a clue what I said.... :)
So off the subject, I apologize, but what did you tell me about JRR Tolkien intending for Aragorn and Eowyn to end up together? I was trying to tell my class and I can't remember why you said he didn't end it up that way.

Thanks!!!
Oh, no problem! I could talk about Tolkien and LOTR and rewriting stories and stuff, like, forever.

So, at first, when Tolkien hadn't even invented Arwen or Faramir, he intended for Aragorn to fall in love with Éówyn and for their marriage to unite Gondor and Rohan and everything to make lots of sense. ;) In this draft, Galadriel tells Aragorn that he's going to fall in love, and lo, when he sees Éowyn, he does.

Then Tolkien second-guessed himself, and decided that maybe Aragorn was "too old and lordly and grim" for her (!), and maybe he would have Éowyn die avenging Théoden instead, but that possibly Aragorn would still be in love with her anyway, and that he wouldn't marry after she died. Obviously things were kind of up in the air at this point.

He came up with the idea of Aragorn already in love with Elrond's daughter fairly late, and I guess he couldn't figure out how to work it into the rest of the story at all, which is why he gave up and put it pretty much entirely in the appendices (total cop-out in my opinion). I think he was really in love with the idea, so much that he couldn't possibly give it up even though he couldn't work it into the story very well, because it was a parallel of the story of the human Beren and the elf-maiden Lúthien that he related really closely to his own marriage to his childhood sweetheart whom he'd been forbidden to marry. He even had their put on their tombstones, I believe. And I don't blame him for wanting to be Aragorn. :D But he still should have held out for Éowyn.
Yeah, see I'm a terribly loyal individual myself, so I've always been conflicted as I read it. See, since he's loved Arwen forever, of course I think he should be with her, because I'm one of those "true love conquers all" people. But then, I've identified with Eowyn since a young age, because I grew up around horses and the first time I heard the story as a 9-year-old kid, I thought, "Hey, I like that horse-princess girl. She's like me!" So all my life I've loved Eowyn and kinda thought Arwen was a weak character, but since Aragorn loved her, I had to grudgingly like it that they were together. *sigh*

Yeah, he should have held out for Eowyn. :)