I heard some expatriate kids the other day say that they should “bounce.” I mention that I wasn’t on US or Canadian soil as I’m not sure that “bounce” is a perfectly current term, though it very well may be. I don’t seem to bounce terribly high or long in the world of contemporary teenage slang, refusing to lose the thread of the right term long past its expiry date.
I always use the term “groovy,” much to the chagrin of anyone under, say, 53, though it seems to me (and perhaps only to me) to have an eternal shelf life. I think “bounce” is groovy, though I’m certain that I won’t always use it right.
At the airport in Zurich the other day, I heard a guy say to his girlfriend that “Je vais le eater,” in reference to a hot dog that he planned to consume pre-departure.
“I shall eat it.”
The problem is that even in the most Fringlish – what I like to call that mix of traditional French and the onward march of pervasive English term usage – “eater” (pronounced “eat-ay”) is not even CLOSE to okay. Traditional linguists would not find “eater” groovy. They would surely bounce from the scene both bothered and bewildered, probably holding their heads.
So why is language important? Why will the teaching and learning of languages (English, Mandarin and Spanish, as well as bits and bites of many others) be a fundamental part of what we’ll do at THINK Global School?
Well, it’s about being able to communicate in real and meaningful (sorry, and “groovy”) ways. About being a great guest in our TGS cities.
Honestly, how hard is it to learn how to say in Sweden “Kan jag få en kopp kaffe?” instead of “Can I have a cup of coffee?” How much of an effort does one need to make to say “Het weer is prachtig,” “The weather is lovely,” on one of those eternally perfect Amsterdam days, and how great would it make you feel to be able to say “Arsenal adalah yang terbaik,” “Arsenal is the best team,” when you’re chatting to a friend near the Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. (Which they are – and don’t you forget that 🙂
The more precise we can learn to be with language, the more we learn about ourselves and the world. Having been an English teacher for a lot of years, I would never let kids off the hook when I’d ask “So, why do you think King Lear would put his daughters in the position that he did?” and they would reply “because he was dumb.”
I’d run with that:
“Okay. ‘Dumb.’ Did you know that one of the definitions of ‘dumb’ is muteness – where the person can’t or won’t speak. So, do you think this might relate to Lear…or maybe his daughters? Was Cordelia ‘dumb’ when she wouldn’t give he father the answer he wanted?”
And we’d go from there, exploring the outside edges of language, turning it on its side a bit, feeling its texture and surface.
And when we deal in a language foreign to us, it’s that much more exciting because it’s totally new. I love that “restaurant” in Russian is “Ресторан” because, to me, the word just looks very cool and every time I see it in Moscow and St. Petersburg I know I can find something to eat 🙂
I love that “Sân bay quốc tế” is “international airport” in Vietnamese, because it means that I’m either entering one of my favourite countries in the world or about to bounce (hey – I’m not using it too badly today) with amazing memories.
As we explore languages, we explore people and their culture and their relationship with us – how can you not see that as totally “groovy”?
Language is about respect. About not coming to someone’s city for a term of study and bouncing out, but rather about making connections. With people. With places. With your experience.
Come join us on our journey.