Johnson

Dictionary blues

The world increasingly speaks English. But dont give up on foreign languages


May 22nd 2021 | words 747

 

 

 


ASTON UNIVERSITY in Birmingham is closing the department that teaches languages and translation. The University of Sheffield stands accused of sending its language students on dumbed-down courses to save money. Fewer pupils at British schools are taking foreign-language exams (a drop in French, the most popular choice, accounts for most of the decline). A hasty analysis might see this trend as a nationalist, populist, post-Brexit mindset at work. But it has been gathering for a long time, not just in Britain but in America, and not just in the Brexit and Trump eras, but well before them.


dumb

dumb / dm /

verb PHR V dumb 'down  | dumb sth'down (disapproving

to make sth less accurate or educational , and of worse quality, by trying to make it easier for people to understand

(),

dumbing 'down noun [U]


hasty

hasty / heisti / 

adj. (hastier, hastiest)

1. said, made or done very quickly, especially when this has bad results

SYN hurried 

a hasty departure / meal / farewell   

//  

Let's not make any hasty decisions.   

 

2. ~ in doing sth (of a person ) acting or deciding too quickly, without enough thought

Perhaps I was too hasty in rejecting his offer.   



The tragic attack on America of September 11th 2001 had one positive consequence. Many Americans realised how entangled their lives were with those of people around the world, and saw that they often did not understand their counterparts hopes and fears. Some patriotically applied to join the diplomatic and intelligence services; a few swotty types resolved to learn foreign languages. The number of students studying Arabic at university soared (albeit from a very low base). But the countrys attention has since wandered. The most recent research in America by the Modern Language Association found a drop of 9.2% in enrolment in university-level foreign-languages courses between 2013 and 2016.

  

entangle

entangle / intgl / 

verb [VN] [usually passive] 

1. ~ sb / sth (in / with sth) to make sb / sth become caught or twisted in sth

The bird had become entangled in the wire netting.  

 

2. ~ sb in sth / with sb to involve sb in a difficult or complicated situation

He became entangled in a series of conflicts with the management.  

 

She didn't want to get entangled (= emotionally involved) with him.  


swot

swot / swt; NAmE swt /

verb (-tt-) [V] ~ (for sth) (BrE, informal) to study very hard, especially in order to prepare for an exam

(),

PHR V

 swot sth'up  | swot 'up on sth (BrE, informal)

to study a particular subject very hard, especially in order to prepare for an exam

()(): 

Make sure you swot up on the company before the interview.   



Much more than tub-thumping politics, the likely culprit for all this is the global rise of English. Converse with Europeans of different ages and a three-generation pattern emerges. If they speak English at all, the oldest do so with heavy accents and grammatical mistakes. Middle-aged folk, especially in places like Scandinavia or the Netherlands, have light accents and merely mangle the odd idiom. The youngsters often put their elders to shame. They speak with American accents that could have been plucked from Friendsexcept that they did not pick them up from anything so primitive as an old-fashioned television. Endless time on YouTube, or gaming live with others while trash-talking in English, has made that seem less a foreign language than one of their own.


tub-thumping

'tub-thumping 

noun [U] (BrE, disapproving) the act of giving your opinions about sth in a loud and aggressive way

'tub-thumping adj. 


pluck

pluck / plk / 

verb [VN] ~ sth (from sth) (old-fashioned) or (literary) to pick a fruit, flower, etc. from where it is growing

I plucked an orange from the tree.   




All this might understandably make youngsters in Anglophone countries wonder why they should bother learning French or Spanish at school. Why endure the arduous middle phase of learning a languagewhen you have some knowledge but no experienceif the awkward jumble that comes out of your mouth is liable to be met with a reply in flawless English? True fluency is valuable, as anyone who has sweated to achieve it will proudly attest. But that half-knowledge, the typical outcome of many courses, increasingly looks redundant.


jumble

jumble / dmbl /

noun 1. [sing.] ~ (of sth) an untidy or confused mixture of things

a jumble of books and paper   

 

The essay was a meaningless jumble of ideas.   

, 

2. [U] (BrE) a collection of old or used clothes, etc. that are no longer wanted and are going to be taken to a jumble sale 

 


liable

liable / laibl / 

adj. [not before noun] 

1. ~ (for sth) legally responsible for paying the cost of sth

()

You will be liable for any damage caused. 

   

The court ruled he could not be held personally liable for his wife's debts.   

 

2. ~ to do sth likely to do sth

(): 

We're all liable to make mistakes when we're tired.   

 

The bridge is liable to collapse at any moment.   

 

3. ~ to sth likely to be affected by sth

SYN prone 

You are more liable to injury if you exercise infrequently.  

  

4. ~ to sth likely to be punished by law for sth

Offenders are liable to fines of up to $500.   

500  

5. ~ for / to sth | ~ to do sth having to do sth by law

()

People who earn under a certain amount are not liable to pay tax.   



Yet there are several good reasons to persist with language-learning in schools and universities. First, anyone who plans to move to another country, or interacts with one regularly for work or otherwise, still benefits hugely from almost any familiarity with its language. There is no way to genuinely get to know a place without being able to chit-chat or watch a bit of its television. (Anglophones who doubt this should imagine understanding their country with zero knowledge of English.) Second, even if your contact with the culture in question is only occasional, your efforts to use its language will be much appreciatedat least by older residents, who might otherwise scowl at you for assuming everyone is happy to speak English.


scowl

scowl / skaul / 

verb [V]

~ (at sb / sth) to look at sb / sth in an angry or annoyed way

()

SYN glower 



Foreign languages also have an intellectual value all their owneven if you never set foot in the relevant country. Latin and Greek were for centuries considered training for the mind; the same is true of immersion in any alien tongue. This is how many people acquire what formal knowledge of grammar they have. And the effort involved in talking in a foreign language makes you slow down and reflect on what you are saying and why. Researchers have even found that people make more rational decisions when speaking another language.


Beyond the individual benefits, 21st-century economies still need people who can function fluently abroad. Just as universal maths education creates a big pool of potential engineers, widespread language teaching does the same for business executives, diplomats, soldiers and spies. Speaking another language is not just a courtesy to others. Much of the benefit still accrues to those who put in the workand the societies that support them. Even as English continues to rise, Anglophone countries that slash budgets for foreign languages may find themselves lost for words.


accrue

accrue / kru /

verb (formal)

1. [V] ~ (to sb) (from sth) to increase over a period of time

(),

economic benefits accruing to the country from tourism  

   

Interest will accrue if you keep your money in a savings account.   

,

2. [VN] to allow a sum of money or debts to grow over a period of time

()

SYN accumulate 

The firm had accrued debts of over $6m.  

  600  

accrual / krul / noun [U, C] : 

the accrual of interest   












 










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Economist | Dictionary blues



 

Johnson

Dictionary blues

The world increasingly speaks English. But dont give up on foreign languages


May 22nd 2021 | words 747

 

 

 


ASTON UNIVERSITY in Birmingham is closing the department that teaches languages and translation. The University of Sheffield stands accused of sending its language students on dumbed-down courses to save money. Fewer pupils at British schools are taking foreign-language exams (a drop in French, the most popular choice, accounts for most of the decline). A hasty analysis might see this trend as a nationalist, populist, post-Brexit mindset at work. But it has been gathering for a long time, not just in Britain but in America, and not just in the Brexit and Trump eras, but well before them.


dumb

dumb / dm /

verb PHR V dumb 'down  | dumb sth'down (disapproving

to make sth less accurate or educational , and of worse quality, by trying to make it easier for people to understand

(),

dumbing 'down noun [U]


hasty

hasty / heisti / 

adj. (hastier, hastiest)

1. said, made or done very quickly, especially when this has bad results

SYN hurried 

a hasty departure / meal / farewell   

//  

Let's not make any hasty decisions.   

 

2. ~ in doing sth (of a person ) acting or deciding too quickly, without enough thought

Perhaps I was too hasty in rejecting his offer.   



The tragic attack on America of September 11th 2001 had one positive consequence. Many Americans realised how entangled their lives were with those of people around the world, and saw that they often did not understand their counterparts hopes and fears. Some patriotically applied to join the diplomatic and intelligence services; a few swotty types resolved to learn foreign languages. The number of students studying Arabic at university soared (albeit from a very low base). But the countrys attention has since wandered. The most recent research in America by the Modern Language Association found a drop of 9.2% in enrolment in university-level foreign-languages courses between 2013 and 2016.

  

entangle

entangle / intgl / 

verb [VN] [usually passive] 

1. ~ sb / sth (in / with sth) to make sb / sth become caught or twisted in sth

The bird had become entangled in the wire netting.  

 

2. ~ sb in sth / with sb to involve sb in a difficult or complicated situation

He became entangled in a series of conflicts with the management.  

 

She didn't want to get entangled (= emotionally involved) with him.  


swot

swot / swt; NAmE swt /

verb (-tt-) [V] ~ (for sth) (BrE, informal) to study very hard, especially in order to prepare for an exam

(),

PHR V

 swot sth'up  | swot 'up on sth (BrE, informal)

to study a particular subject very hard, especially in order to prepare for an exam

()(): 

Make sure you swot up on the company before the interview.   



Much more than tub-thumping politics, the likely culprit for all this is the global rise of English. Converse with Europeans of different ages and a three-generation pattern emerges. If they speak English at all, the oldest do so with heavy accents and grammatical mistakes. Middle-aged folk, especially in places like Scandinavia or the Netherlands, have light accents and merely mangle the odd idiom. The youngsters often put their elders to shame. They speak with American accents that could have been plucked from Friendsexcept that they did not pick them up from anything so primitive as an old-fashioned television. Endless time on YouTube, or gaming live with others while trash-talking in English, has made that seem less a foreign language than one of their own.


tub-thumping

'tub-thumping 

noun [U] (BrE, disapproving) the act of giving your opinions about sth in a loud and aggressive way

'tub-thumping adj. 


pluck

pluck / plk / 

verb [VN] ~ sth (from sth) (old-fashioned) or (literary) to pick a fruit, flower, etc. from where it is growing

I plucked an orange from the tree.   




All this might understandably make youngsters in Anglophone countries wonder why they should bother learning French or Spanish at school. Why endure the arduous middle phase of learning a languagewhen you have some knowledge but no experienceif the awkward jumble that comes out of your mouth is liable to be met with a reply in flawless English? True fluency is valuable, as anyone who has sweated to achieve it will proudly attest. But that half-knowledge, the typical outcome of many courses, increasingly looks redundant.


jumble

jumble / dmbl /

noun 1. [sing.] ~ (of sth) an untidy or confused mixture of things

a jumble of books and paper   

 

The essay was a meaningless jumble of ideas.   

, 

2. [U] (BrE) a collection of old or used clothes, etc. that are no longer wanted and are going to be taken to a jumble sale 

 


liable

liable / laibl / 

adj. [not before noun] 

1. ~ (for sth) legally responsible for paying the cost of sth

()

You will be liable for any damage caused. 

   

The court ruled he could not be held personally liable for his wife's debts.   

 

2. ~ to do sth likely to do sth

(): 

We're all liable to make mistakes when we're tired.   

 

The bridge is liable to collapse at any moment.   

 

3. ~ to sth likely to be affected by sth

SYN prone 

You are more liable to injury if you exercise infrequently.  

  

4. ~ to sth likely to be punished by law for sth

Offenders are liable to fines of up to $500.   

500  

5. ~ for / to sth | ~ to do sth having to do sth by law

()

People who earn under a certain amount are not liable to pay tax.   



Yet there are several good reasons to persist with language-learning in schools and universities. First, anyone who plans to move to another country, or interacts with one regularly for work or otherwise, still benefits hugely from almost any familiarity with its language. There is no way to genuinely get to know a place without being able to chit-chat or watch a bit of its television. (Anglophones who doubt this should imagine understanding their country with zero knowledge of English.) Second, even if your contact with the culture in question is only occasional, your efforts to use its language will be much appreciatedat least by older residents, who might otherwise scowl at you for assuming everyone is happy to speak English.


scowl

scowl / skaul / 

verb [V]

~ (at sb / sth) to look at sb / sth in an angry or annoyed way

()

SYN glower 



Foreign languages also have an intellectual value all their owneven if you never set foot in the relevant country. Latin and Greek were for centuries considered training for the mind; the same is true of immersion in any alien tongue. This is how many people acquire what formal knowledge of grammar they have. And the effort involved in talking in a foreign language makes you slow down and reflect on what you are saying and why. Researchers have even found that people make more rational decisions when speaking another language.


Beyond the individual benefits, 21st-century economies still need people who can function fluently abroad. Just as universal maths education creates a big pool of potential engineers, widespread language teaching does the same for business executives, diplomats, soldiers and spies. Speaking another language is not just a courtesy to others. Much of the benefit still accrues to those who put in the workand the societies that support them. Even as English continues to rise, Anglophone countries that slash budgets for foreign languages may find themselves lost for words.


accrue

accrue / kru /

verb (formal)

1. [V] ~ (to sb) (from sth) to increase over a period of time

(),

economic benefits accruing to the country from tourism  

   

Interest will accrue if you keep your money in a savings account.   

,

2. [VN] to allow a sum of money or debts to grow over a period of time

()

SYN accumulate 

The firm had accrued debts of over $6m.  

  600  

accrual / krul / noun [U, C] : 

the accrual of interest   












 










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