Some people think if you know the basics of a language and are able to communicate “decently” then learning it any further is a waste of time. In fact, this is not the case. Learning multiple languages is beneficial for anyone in any culture.|
Last year there were news reports that the U.K. government is cutting funding in universities for subjects like the arts, languages, and social sciences. Instead it is focusing on the more “profitable” subjects like science, technology, engineering and mathematics or the Stem subjects.
Sarah Churchwell, professor of American literature at University of East Anglia, responded by saying: “Virtually every cabinet minister has a humanities degree. And I think there’s something quite sinister about it: they get their leadership positions after studying the humanities and then they tell us that what we need is a nation of technocrats. If you look at the vast majority of world leaders, you’ll find that they’ve got humanities degrees. The ruling elite have humanities degrees because they can do critical thinking, they can test premises, they can think outside the box, they can problem-solve, they can communicate, they don’t have linear, one-solution models with which to approach the world. You won’t solve the problems of religious fundamentalism with a science experiment.”
She makes a valid point. Humanities serve many purposes.
Learning a new language, for example, opens you up to a new culture altogether. A good novel of any language is a small representation of the lives of the people who speak it. Reading books of a different language would help you become more open minded. A lot is lost in translations.
As the world is getting more and more globalized we’ll adapt better if we learn another language. We need good communication skills and merely talking with our family and friends will not teach us the finer details of a language.
We need language schools for that.
Just like when we learn about other people, we also learn about ourselves; reading a foreign language will also improve our own language.
The people who despise humanities have perhaps not given serious thought into the issue. What do they really want us to do?
Get up in the morning, drive our car to a factory, work on machines, return and sleep? A world without the humanities would be a world with no theatre, no movies, no music, no dance clubs, no language schools, and no storytellers. This world view is indeed that of insanity. Leading such a life would mean existing without living.
As Adam Gopnik said in The New Yorker, “We need the humanities not because they will produce shrewder entrepreneurs or kinder C.E.O.s but because … they help us enjoy life more and endure it better. The reason we need the humanities is because we’re human. That’s enough.”
Indeed that’s enough.
Farhan Musavi blogs on Major Journal.
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