Sunday, April 27, 2008

My brain is full

I have alluded before to the curse of the 'language Nazis', the people who are so self-righteous about the suffering they've put themselves through to 'master' Chinese that they are bitterly contemptuous of those of us who prefer not to bother - sometimes they will use the dread word "monolingual" as a term of disparagement. That particularly gets my goat.

I attained a high level of proficiency in Classical Latin and Greek, and also in French (at school I read substantial chunks of Voltaire, Zola, Flaubert and De Maupassant in the original). I have also, at various times, acquired (but then rapidly lost again!) at least a smattering of Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Modern Greek...... and Fijian. I can even speak a little Mandarin Chinese. Just a little.

I am not "monolingual" - I just happen not to find Chinese either attractive or useful, and thus can't muster any motivation to study it.

And it is much harder to learn new languages in middle age than it was when I was a young man. I wonder if the language centres of the brain may perhaps have a finite capacity..... and mine, I feel, are these days pretty much maxed out with English. I certainly know a few people here whose attempts to learn Chinese have produced little obvious result other than a slight deterioration in their English (my buddy The Chairman is a notorious example of this - although he's not the only one). I don't want that to happen to me.

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