Re: [langue-fr] L'anglais est-il une langue universelle ?

From: Patrick Andries (
Date: Sat Dec 30 2000 - 11:09:23 EST

----- Message d'origine -----
De : "Elliotte Rusty Harold" <>

> At 7:23 PM -0800 12/29/00, Patrick Andries wrote:
> >However, the questions -- as I see them -- are : should they all speak
> >only English as a foreign language, why do they learn only one foreign
> >language (just next to them there are 100 millions native German
> >speakers...)
> If people have the interest, time, and resources to learn more
> languages, that's great; but I certainly don't think it should be
> expected or required.

As a matter of fact, people actually don't chose : they are simply taught
these languages by schools or their living environment (Africa, India).
I obviously disagree on the expected or required part.

> Just where and when
> are people supposed to learn them? School curricula are quite crowded
> already. Every extra language you add is less time for math or
> history or science or the native language. And where do you find the
> teachers for all these extra languages?

I would like to see any statistics tending to prove that pupils learning
more languages have worse results in maths or science than the unilingual
ones (let's say a comparison between HK pupils and the US ones ;-)).

> Not a
> I think universal bilingualism is the best we can hope
> for, and substantially better than what exists today.

Again, this may be true (it is actually the case in many countries) but it
does not mean universal English-X bilingualism, neither should it since most
contacts are not with native English speakers (only around 6% of the world's

> >The world is definitively multilingual (about everybody speaks more than
> >language, often three -- this approximation holds true to a few
> >points) but that does not mean the world is always speaking English and
> >another language... It is this simplistic vision that many people
> >
> I'd like to see that claim backed up a little.

I looked briefly for a quote from Claude Hagège who mentioned some
interesting facts on this but couldn't find it.

I think, however, that it should be possible to prove that most of the world
is multilingual. ("The Third World (1/2 of the
world) is multilingual as a necessity"), it is indeed well-known that
multilingualism is ordinary in Africa and Asia (and does not always involve
English, think of India, Indonesia, Israel, Zaire, South Africa or the
Maghreb). These are also the nations with the highest birth rates.

> You're coming from
> Canada, and Quebec in particular, which is possibly the most
> universally bilingual place in the Americas.

The Americas being one of the most unilingual place in the World...(if we
except California ?).

But Québec is indeed one of the most *multi*lingual places : we have, for
instance, one of the highest survival rate of Indian aboriginal languages of
any province or state, as well as one of the longest retention rate of the
immigrants native language in the Americas.

> Certainly the world does not always speak just English and another
> language. Often they're speaking just English, or just Spanish,
> or just Mandarin, or just Yanomamo, or just whatever their native
> language is. If they do speak two languages, then I'm saying we
> should be glad of that, and focus on the ones who don't speak a
> second language at all.

Focus on the unilinguals in order to do what ?

If most of the world is multilingual, which I stated as a fact, it does not
mean that I approve of imposing a single universal second language to all
of them...

> Trilingualism and more is I'm afraid just too
> much to ask of most people who aren't full-time language
> professionals or naturally gifted with languages.

This is simply not true : it is a matter of usage not of "talent", it is
quite common in many places in the world and not necessarily among the most
educated people (see South Africa were many (most?) Blacks will speak
several Bantu languages, English and/or Afrikaans).

P. Andries

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Tue Jul 10 2001 - 17:21:17 EDT