Saturday, April 25, 2009

Another argument for the necessity of language education

I was perusing Amazon.com the other day when I happened upon this gem in a review for a Sepultura album: "Surely destined to become yet another Sepultura classic, A-LEX (Russian for no law) will catapult the Brazilian masters right back into their deserved spotlight." The translation of "a-lex" seems acceptable, but from Russian? Wikipedia claims that this is from Latin ab-, 'away from' + lex, 'law'. I think more likely it's a mixture of Greek a, 'without' + Latin lex, 'law'. I would argue that this is another reason why we need linguistics education for all. I think it's reasonable to expect anyone going through even our current education system to have some basic understanding of where certain common prefixes come from, but a little bit of training in linguistics would surely benefit students even more.

Some people would no doubt question the usefulness of such training: who cares if we know the derivation of Sepultura's album title? Well I say fie on them. Ultimately you can argue the same thing for any bit of knowledge.

4 comments:

Alex Case said...

I think that is one of those bits of knowledge that is only useful for people who are going to reach a certain academic level, but we also teach (or try to teach) things like calculus that are exactly the same. Some other things are much more vital for present life and not given even the importance of linguistics, such as statistics to see through the lies of politicians and advertisers.

linguistlessons said...

I took statistics in high school, whereas even my college didn't have a linguistics major. Also, my point wasn't that linguistics is more relevant to life than other subjects, just that you can question the relevancy of any subject. For instance, why do we need to see through the lies of politicians and advertisers? Not to mention, I can't think of the last time a politician or ad tried to convince me with bogus statistics.

Linguanerd said...

Speaking of seeing through politicians and advertisers, some other valuable things we should be teaching kids at school is rhetoric, ethics, and business skills. Not to mentions science should be obligatory for every one. And while we are at it, add dialectics. And some comparative religions and cross-cultural communication skills. Have I forgotten something?

Alex said...

Russian for No Law would probably be без закона. Clearly, this is not what Sepultura had in mind.