Education Letter: We need to be multilingual

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The Independent Online
Maybe we don't need to speak other languages as much as the rest of the world needs to speak English, but Alan Bright misses a crucial benefit of mastering (or even just attempting) a foreign language. I have always found that I (BA Hons German, Leeds, 1975) and my linguist colleagues have far more understanding for our foreign business partners than non- linguists. We know the effort they are making when dealing in English. We can sense when they are struggling with what we are saying. We know to use simpler, less idiomatic structures and not just to raise our voices and talk more slowly. We don't dismiss their utterings as incomprehensible: we enjoy the challenge of trying to fathom out their intended meaning. With luck and a little knowledge of their language we may even spot the odd faux ami and be able to insert the word they thought they were using.

KEITH BAILEY

Basingstoke

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