Seemingly Pointless Foreign Language Instruction

Have you ever seen those little “learn foreign words” messages? I see them on elevator displays occasionally, supposedly teaching you other languages one word at a time. As much as I approve of education, and as much as I get the idea that you fit in tiny bits of education where you can, these don’t seem like they’d ever teach you very much. The one I saw today seemed even more pointless, though only seemingly so.

The one I saw was formatted to give a word in English and then that same word in three other languages. It tends to do different languages all the time, so perhaps the focus is on comprehensiveness without any idea you’d even build up an actually useful knowledge of a particular other language.

Regardless, the word today in English was “alphabet.” That itself isn’t significant, but one of the three other languages they chose to display was French. The French word for “alphabet” is “alphabet.” The word is orthographically identical in both languages. I’m sure that’s useful to know, and I’m sure it’s pronounced very differently in French than in English (pronouncations aren’t given in the format of this particular message), but still. It seemed pointless. Seemed like they should have chosen three languages where the word wasn’t the same.

But then I got to thinking. I figured it might be fun to do these only with words and language selections where there were no differences. Make it look really pointless. It would look something like this:

Word of the day: Taxi (English)

  • French: Taxi
  • Dutch: Taxi
  • German: Taxi
  • Galician: Taxi
  • Latin: Taxi
  • Romanian: Taxi
  • Italian: Taxi
  • Slovenian: Taxi
  • Basque: Taxi

I just think it’d be fun to tick people off like that.

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About David S. Atkinson

David S. Atkinson enjoys typing about himself in the third person, although he does not generally enjoy speaking in such a fashion. However, he is concerned about the Kierkegaard quote "Once you label me you negate me." He worries that if he attempts to define himself he will, in fact, nullify his existence...
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