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Éditorial du journal britannique The Observer du dimanche 15 août 2010 à

Traduction libre : L’arrogance anglophone nous porte à croire que l’humanité et sa diversité linguistique doivent comprendre ce que nous leur disons en anglais, sans pour autant nous sentir obligés en retour de communiquer avec elles dans leurs langues.

Dans l’éditorial suivant en anglais, on parle « d’embarassement national », voire même de « disgrâce nationale ».

Language teaching: Entre nous, the idea we need only English is totally passé

• Editorial
The Observer, Sunday 15 August 2010

Without a commitment to language teaching we condemn our children to a tongue-tied future

It is a curiously English arrogance to expect the world to understand what we say, but to feel little obligation to reciprocate. Our stumbling efforts at languages other than our own have long been a national embarrassment; they threaten to become a national disgrace. We upbraid the English football manager for his difficulties with phrasing, while never stopping to think that in much of the world we are considered a nation of Capellos.

The ineffectiveness of language teaching in schools, which has left several generations hardly able to mumble a sentence of French or German, has been compounded by the removal of compulsory language classes in the curriculum beyond the age of 14. The promise to embed languages in primary schools has been neither funded nor fulfilled, so our largely monoglot island retreats further from the nuance of other nations.

The reductionist arguments are well-rehearsed: that English has become a universal tongue; that Google will soon perfect touch-of-a-button translation; that grammar and syntax are going the way of text and Twitter. What chance of trying to get young heads round diphthongs and datives?

Those arguments ignore what languages are: discrete and rooted codes of thought and feeling, subtly different ways of describing experience. To have only one, as Michael Hofmann eloquently argues on these pages, is to betray not just a failure of comprehension, but of imagination. «Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own,» Goethe wrote.

There is much talk of subjects that should make their way on to the GCSE syllabus: parenting, civic understanding and the rest. Such concerns are predicated on an anxiety that, despite new technologies, young people are ceasing to engage with the world or build communities. All those connections begin and end in language; without a commitment to its possibilities, we condemn our children to a tongue-tied future, in which a large part of the global conversation will end up passing them by.

It is a curiously English arrogance to expect the world to understand what we say, but to feel little obligation to reciprocate.

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