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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

16                  The Loom of Language
of linguistic contacts. Another is that formal education fails to supply
a compelling reason for a pursuit which has little connexion with the
needs of everyday life. Reasons commonly given for learning foreign
languages are manifestly insincere, or, to put it more charitably, are
out of date For instance., it is obviously easy to exaggerate the utility
of linguistic accomplishments for foreign travel Only relatively pros-
perous people can continue to travel after marriage, and tourist facili-
ties for young people of modest means rarely, if ever, take them into
situations where nobody understands Anglo-American There is even
less sincerity in the plea for linguistic proficiency as a key to the treasure-
house of the world's literature American and British publishers scour
the Continent for translation rights of new authors So the doors of
the treasure-house are wide open Indeed, any intelligent adolescent
with access to a modern lending library can catch out the teacher who
enthuses about the pleasures of reading Thomas Mann or Anatole
France in the original People who do so are content to get their know-
ledge of Scandinavian drama, the Russian novel or the Icelandic Sagas
from American or British translations
In spite of all obstacles, anyone who has been brought up to speak
the Anglo-American language enjoys a peculiarly favoured position
It is a hybrid It has a basic stratum of words derived from the same
stock as German., Dutch;, and the Scandinavian languages It has
assimilated thousands of Latin origin It has also incorporated an
impressive battery of Greek roots. A random sample of one word from
each of the first thousand pages of the Concise Oxford Dictionary gives
the following figures* words of Romance (Latin, French, Italian,
Spanish) origin 53 6 %, Teutonic (Old English, Scandinavian, Dutch,
German) 31 i % Greek 10-8 % With a little knowledge of the
evolution of English itself, of the parallel evolution of the Teutonic
languages and of the modern descendants of Latin, as set forth in the
second part of this book, the American or the Briton has therefore a
key to ten living European languages No one outside the Anglo-
American speech community enjoys this privilege, and no one who
knows how to take full advantage of it need despair of getting a good
working knowledge of the languages which our nearest neighbours
speak
Though each of us is entitled to a personal distaste, as each of us is
entitled to a personal preference, for study of this sort, the usefulness
of learning languages is not merely a personal affair. Linguistic differ-
ences are a perpetual source of international misunderstanding, a well-