KTM User Pages
14 Nov 2005 - 21:48
Carolyn & I have been talking about the KUMON reading program, and especially about vocabulary (which is supposed to be the secret to success on the SATs). Today I came across this article in THE ECONOMIST, which gives you some idea what a person on the autism spectrum is up against trying to learn vocabulary from context:
Some 380m people speak it as their first language and perhaps two-thirds as many again as their second. A billion are learning it, about a third of the world's population are in some sense exposed to it and by 2050, it is predicted, half the world will be more or less proficient in it. It is the language of globalisation—of international business, politics and diplomacy. It is the language of computers and the Internet. You'll see it on posters in Côte d'Ivoire, you'll hear it in pop songs in Tokyo, you'll read it in official documents in Phnom Penh. Deutsche Welle broadcasts in it. Bjork, an Icelander, sings in it. French business schools teach in it. It is the medium of expression in cabinet meetings in Bolivia. Truly, the tongue spoken back in the 1300s only by the “low people” of England, as Robert of Gloucester put it at the time, has come a long way. It is now the global language. How come? Not because English is easy. True, genders are simple, since English relies on “it” as the pronoun for all inanimate nouns, reserving masculine for bona fide males and feminine for females (and countries and ships). But the verbs tend to be irregular, the grammar bizarre and the match between spelling and pronunciation a nightmare. English is now so widely spoken in so many places that umpteen versions have evolved, some so peculiar that even “native” speakers may have trouble understanding each other. But if only one version existed, that would present difficulties enough. Even everyday English is a language of subtlety, nuance and complexity. John Simmons, a language consultant for Interbrand, likes to cite the word “set”, an apparently simple word that takes on different meanings in a sporting, cooking, social or mathematical context—and that is before any little words are combined with it. Then, as a verb, it becomes “set aside”, “set up”, “set down”, “set in”, “set on”, “set about”, “set against” and so on, terms that “leave even native speakers bewildered about [its] core meaning.”
And, from another article:
IN THE 17th century, educated people across central Europe could still communicate with each other in Latin. By the mid-19th century, the handiest language for a traveller through Mitteleuropa was the German spoken by the Habsburg monarchs who reigned over Hungarians, Czechs and many others. A little more than 100 years later, the dominant tongue was Russian. Now the region's new language of choice for the 21st century is percolating upwards through the education system, and downwards from the business and political elite. It will be English, studied by three out of four secondary-school pupils from the Baltic to the Balkans.
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The Adventure of English TV series was very interesting on the evolution of English to modern days. -- SamanthaRawson - 15 Nov 2005
It appears that the first link is only to the .jpg file for the picture. Browsing around the Economist site, I couldn't find that first article. Is it for subscribers only? -- DanK - 15 Nov 2005
I fixed the link. Can we still see 'The Adventure of English TV'? Also, Samantha, if you're around, do you want to write something about math ed for gifted kids? -- CatherineJohnson - 15 Nov 2005
Link is fixed—thanks for letting me know! -- CatherineJohnson - 15 Nov 2005