Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why I'm Not Sure About Teaching English Anymore

It's not the crap pay (measure for measure - it's possible to receive something halfway decent for your teaching hours but then one has to prepare and, if you're like me and have a little bit of OCD regarding these things, that's a lot of time consumed where you're working for free)...it's not even, in this part of the world anyway, the surly, uncooperative students (sometimes, not the majority of the time)...it's the fact that English seems to be the linguistic equivalent of the cane toad, or that green slime that you get on ponds that gets everywhere and chokes everything.
In the way that, I understand, when cats were introduced to the Antipodes by the Europeans, it had a catastrophic (feeble pun intended) effect on the local ecosystem, since there was no equivalent predator of that size endemic there, English seems to have a stranglehold on the rest of the world's languages.
From tacky loan words, something that Russian got an early start with (the story behind the Russian word for train station being particularly poignant) to hilarious websites with Chinese 'Engrish', to the Basil Fawlty-like expectation that 'there must be someone here who speaks English' that virtually any native speaker of English seems to have, it seems to be everywhere.
I must say it's great that there's a lingua franca that might at times iron out misunderstandings between people and nations (and on the other hand probably causes them too) and it's even better when that language happens to be your own mother tongue, but I'm not sure if I want to be a part, however small, of the global tide of language hegemony.
On the plus side, for the rest of the world anyway, this may not last forever. If you'd said to medieval man that Latin would be a dead language understood only by a handful of people in a few centuries' time, he might have laughed at you. What the next lingua franca might be I have no idea; Spanish seems to be the only one that comes close in terms of 'ease', or so they say, and ubiquity. I can't see it ever being Chinese whatever happens with the country's status in the world.

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