The New Republic trashes French language learning

…or at least, dismisses it in favor of Spanish or “Chinese”. (Side note: if you write about learning Chinese, as opposed to, say, Mandarin, you should not be writing about language learning.)

The article goes on to say how we learn French as an affectation, to be more European in taste, rather than to be useful in any way, and that, barring an affinity for French literature, we should be using supposedly more practical languages. Because it’s just not useful, apparently.

Look, I get that Spanish has more speakers (500 million vs 300 million for French, per Wikipedia). And it’s not that I’m opposed to people learning Spanish. But while Spanish opens up Latin America, French has much of Africa, various island nations and French possessions, as well as Belgium, Switzerland, etc. French expands your world at least as much as Spanish does.

In general, I think that people should learn the language they want to, for the reasons they want. Want to learn Korean because you like k-pop? Fine. Japanese because you like anime? Also fine. Feynman had this story about how he really wanted to take a Portuguese class because he saw a cute girl taking it, but made himself take Spanish because it was more practical. Then he ended up going on sabbatical to Brazil and his Spanish was useless. Learning a language opens up a new way to see the world. And especially for a language like French, that includes so much more than learning it for some elitist reason. The parents who enroll their kids in French immersion can see that–too bad the writer can’t.


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