Thursday, 30 March 2017

National Book Week

is on in Upover and the "page 56, fifth sentence" exercise is doing the rounds again. I did it once - for someone I like and respect. 
The problem was that what came up was a line from a poem in Gaelic. (It was in a book about language, not a book of poetry.) I put it in anyway. After all, my paternal great-grandparents spoke Scots Gaelic and I once, and once only, heard my paternal grandfather use a mild swear word in Gaelic. (I didn't understand it but he was so embarrassed at having sworn in front of his wife and granddaughter it was obvious.)
I don't know much Gaelic. I can recognise some words. My pronunciation would make all Scots cats shudder - but please  be kind to me. I haven't really heard the language spoken. All that can be said for me is that I can pronounce the Gaelic name of the new owner of the not quite local shop which sells a little bit of yarn...although I think there may be slight differences between the Scots and Irish versions. Never mind. It will be better than what she almost certainly usually gets.
But, as always, it made me regret that I have never had the opportunity to learn the language of my ancestors. Schools here sometimes have Modern Greek or Italian. Some still teach French or German. Chinese and Japanese are considered important, so important that a lot of money and effort was put in - and I mean a lot. It has largely been wasted. You can't teach those languages in a few short lessons a week. My great niece is supposedly learning Chinese at school - after two years she knows a few songs and a few social phrases. She still can't count to ten and of course she hasn't been taught to read a single character. I won't say it is a complete waste of time but it comes close to it particularly as she probably wouldn't continue if she went to another school where Chinese wasn't taught. 
I don't know anyone here with English as a first language , not even university students studying modern languages, who reads a second language for pleasure. There are plenty of non-English speakers who read English for pleasure. I have a friend who left school at 12 and didn't have a formal English lesson on her arrival here. She reads English for pleasure. "How else was I going to get anything to read?" she asked me.
Those of us who read English as a first language have more resources than anyone else. So much is written in English. So much is translated into English. 
We are so very fortunate. 

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