Let’s All Go Bilingual

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Two years ago I attended evening school to learn something I’d actually be entitled to teach. I have a degree in Foreign Languages, but German was not my major. After many years of not using it, I had forgotten almost everything. That’s what happens with languages: they rust. So, going to a beginner’s class to refresh my memory seemed a good idea.

It turned out to be a good way of practising, and also good fun. The other participants were as motivated as me, and receptive. In the end, some of us considered taking the class again if advanced class was to be activated the next year. Did they plan level 2? Forget it. They canceled German altogether. They called every course off except for English and Russian. The latter is because we get buses of Russian tourists coming here on a shopping holiday. Don’t ask me why they travel such a long way to a visit few crappy shops or an ugly “outlet” selling faulty items from last year’s clothing collections in a nondescript industrial estate: I have no clue.

What was the problem with that German class? Lack of interest? They’ll never know, since they didn’t even allow people to apply. Actually we called the school to complain, so now they know. Lack of money? Teachers can’t be paid? They could raise fees. They were so low because the evening school is financed by the State: even if doubled, they’d still be relatively cheap. And so what, you may ask: courses are cancelled every day. But there’s something illogical in doing this now and here. I can’t understand what the government is trying to do.

A short time before I sat in my old high school desk again with other challenge loving adults, the Republic of Bananas suddenly woke up one morning to find itself outdated, pathetic, a bad place for investing and an undesirable business partner. Most importantly, it was under embargo by its bigger neighbour. So, it decided to bypass it and deal directly with other countries. In order to do that, the ruling class announced its will to turn it into a bilingual country.

There are many countries in the world that have their own indigenous language plus an official language, i.e. English or French; but they’re normally ex-colonies, or have a minority among its population that speaks another language. The Republic of Bananas is none of the above: completely mono-lingual, mono-race and mono-brain, and independent since the eve of time. However, the delirious dream of bilingualism must become true – and which better way than cancelling language classes?

Now, such an ambition sounds ridiculous for a country whose heads of state are so blatantly ignorant that they are ashamed to speak in public. Twice a year state TV airs their speech to the nation, but their accent is so strong, their grammar so poor and their presentation skills so non-existent, that it has to be read by a voice over while a static photo of them is shown in the background. Local speakers, though having a decent pronunciation because they took elocution lessons, read like schoolboys delivering a poem; but still, it’s a progress. Most members of establishment, when interviewed, speak a mix of standard language and dialect, and they don’t even realize they’re making a fool of themselves.

In this exciting cultural environment, reactions to me taking a German class (from people who don’t know I already speak it) went from: “German is useless in business! you only use English!”, to: “Why do you even want to learn German?”- as if I had said I was going to open a funeral home.

It doesn’t matter that compulsory learning of the English language starting from elementary school was introduced in the Republic of Bananas since the mid-eighties –  which means that every citizen under 40 can already speak English, and shouldn’t need more courses. It doesn’t matter that people become polyglot when they use the second language everyday, at least when talking to outsiders, and not when it’s only used in official documents.

It doesn’t matter that the purpose of this modernization through “bilingualism” was to ease communication and procedures and circumvent import-export bureaucracy so that we can do business with foreign countries in general, and not the UK and USA only. It doesn’t matter that Germany is the only country in the Eurozone to maintain a strong economy in spite of the crisis. It doesn’t matter we have a huge unemployment and that would be the place to relocate to for many of us. All Germans are nazis anyway. And we don’t want to speak like Ratzinger, don’t we?

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However, the Republic of Bananas will soon start being neglected by Russian tourist who finally realized designer bags they bought here were all counterfeit, as it appears from a recent article on a local paper, reporting feedback comments posted on Yandex. I expect more classes to be canceled next year.


Written in response to Writing 101, Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You


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