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Arguelles’ Six Most Important Languages

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Hashimi
Senior Member
Oman
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Speaks: Arabic (Written)*
Studies: English, Japanese

 
 Message 1 of 44
24 January 2011 at 4:17pm | IP Logged 

The Professor says that educated people should strive to learn at least six languages.

He says that we should all learn six languages that fall into four categories:

a. Classical languages of one’s own culture to understand Classical literature.
b. Major living languages of one’s broader culture.
c. The international language.
d. Exotic languages.

For b and d I chose Farsi/Turkish and Japanese/Russian respectively. c is the English
of course.

As an Arabic native speaker, I already understand and speak Classical Arabic (Arabic of
the 7th to the 19th century). My question is which language are likely to be fall into
the first category for me as an Arabic speaker? Biblical Hebrew? (already understand it
but not speak it) or medieval languages in the Islamic empire (Ottoman Turkish or
Classic Farsi)?

I
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Juаn
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 Message 2 of 44
24 January 2011 at 4:48pm | IP Logged 
Hashimi wrote:
As an Arabic native speaker, I already understand and speak Classical Arabic (Arabic of
the 7th to the 19th century). My question is which language are likely to be fall into
the first category for me as an Arabic speaker? Biblical Hebrew? (already understand it
but not speak it) or medieval languages in the Islamic empire (Ottoman Turkish or
Classic Farsi)?

I


Alongside Classical Arabic of course,

Indispensable

* Classical Persian, one of the great literary languages of the Muslim world

Highly desirable

* Classical Hebrew, the fountainhead of monotheistic religion
* Ancient Greek, from which the Arabs as well as the Europeans drew much science and philosophy

Of possible interest

* Ottoman Turkish
* Syriac, through translations into which much Greek thought actually reached Arab scholars
* Sanskrit, from which the Arabs drew mathematics and astronomical knowledge

Edited by Juаn on 24 January 2011 at 5:19pm

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TerryW
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 Message 3 of 44
24 January 2011 at 5:08pm | IP Logged 
Hashimi wrote:

The Professor says that educated people should strive to learn at least six languages.


Could you post a link to where he talks about that?

I don't want to trash that idea based on hearsay, and it's only fair that I know just what he proposes before I call it nonsense. ;-).
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ChristopherB
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 Message 4 of 44
24 January 2011 at 6:02pm | IP Logged 
From the thread Alexander Arguelles

ProfArguelles wrote:
I have gotten into trouble for this before, so let me begin by clarifying that when I say an educated person "should" know half a dozen languages, I mean this "should" as an attainable goal to be striven for, not as a criterion for judgment that anyone who does not know this many is not well-educated. Since contemporary culture does not hold up this goal, individual products of its educational systems are hardly to blame if they have not attained it. Also, I certainly do not believe that linguistic knowledge is the only measure of a good education; there are many other things I believe a well-educated person "should" know, but since this is a forum about languages, I only discuss this here. I do believe that for self-motivated lovers of languages, this is an attainable goal that should be striven for, and I have several distinctly different reasons for this belief:

1. Ample anthropological evidence that it is normal for normal individuals from truly multilingual societies such as parts of Africa and India to know half a dozen languages. Obvious thus it is in the standard capacity of the human mind to know and use this many languages if the environment is right, and I think that concentrated intelligence and diligence should be able to match the quality of early childhood immersion.

2. Ample textual evidence that this goal was attained in the not-so-distant past. Look at any scholarly tome from the 19th century and you will see that no translations are provided for quotations from other languages if the book is written in English, translations will certainly be provided for Chinese or Sanskrit or Persian or Arabic, but NOT for Latin or Greek or French or German or Spanish or Italian. Obviously it was a reasonable and justified assumption that anyone who would read such a book would be able to read these languages. There is a common belief that the explosion of knowledge in our era has forced us to become specialists while these old fellows had the leisure to spend time on languages because there was so little breadth in their fields. I used to believe this myself, but it is simply not true. The range, the breadth, the depth, the quality, and the quantity of 19th century scholarship measured against the output of contemporary scholars in the same field is incomparably greater. Obviously, linguistic range facilitated flexibility of mind while its absence narrows it. At any rate, if our great-grandfathers could do this, why can't we?

3. Ample linguistic evidence that half a dozen languages is a boundary mark. For those who have not reached it, the study of foreign languages is generally a hard task in which success is always uncertain, while for those who have reached it, the acquisition of further languages is no longer difficult. Given that languages are the fundamental element in human thought and communication, In the course of a lifetime, an awakened mind may well wish to acquire a new one, and so knowledge of this many is the fundamental base that one should have in order to assure the ability to acquire others at will.

4. Ample sociological and demographic evidence that the languages of the world are in great and grave danger of extinction now that the era of global languages has arrived. From the standpoint of communication this may well be a good thing, but from the standpoint of cultural preservation, it is a disaster. The only way to prevent the literary and cultural legacies of the past from being lost is to encourage the study of the languages that are their vehicles. If the general expectation that educated individuals should know this many languages can somehow, ideally, be established, then I think there is some hope for cultural preservation, even if the world of the future speaks only one language.


I really like your idea of what your 7 languages should be, taking one language from many different civilizations. This is a true ideal, one that I am consciously trying to provide for my sons, born of a Western father and an Eastern mother, by moving to and raising them in Arabia, with plans to move to India within a decade. However, most human beings are infinitely more culture bound, and when it comes to learning languages, culture is a critical factor. For a European, learning other familiar European tongues is one thing, while mastering exotic tongues is geometrically more difficult and consequently time consuming. The kind of range you suggest is probably attainable only for those such as members of this forum whose major focus is on languages, and I did mean my "should" to refer to all educated individuals, whatever their fields of interest or concentration.

I do not believe there is any particular half a dozen formulaic languages that can be prescribed for all people because the issue is so culture bound. In general, I think that well-educated individuals in my ideal world should know a) the classical language(s) of their own civilization, b) the major living languages of their broader culture, c) the international language (English) if this is not one of these or a semi-exotic if it is, and d) one exotic language of their own choosing. For example:

A well-educated Westerner "should" know: a) Latin & Greek, b) English & French, Spanish or German, c) Russian, and d) Persian or Arabic or Sanskrit or Hindi or Chinese or...

A well-educated Middle-Easterner "should" know: a) Arabic, b) Persian, Turkish, & Hebrew, c) English & French, and d) Latin or Urdu or Japanese or...

A well-educated Indian "should" know: a) Sanskrit & Persian or Arabic, b) Hindi/Urdu & Bengali, Marathi or Gujarati or, c) English, and d) Italian or Korean or Swahili or...

A well-educated Easterner "should" know: a) Classical Chinese, b) Mandarin, Japanese, & Korean, c) English, and d) Greek or Pali or Persian or...

And so on.

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Préposition
Diglot
Senior Member
France
aspectualpairs.wordp
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 Message 5 of 44
24 January 2011 at 6:12pm | IP Logged 
Right, I just need Latin and Greek and that'd make me a better-educated Westerner. Maybe some time, soon!
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TerryW
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 Message 7 of 44
25 January 2011 at 1:44am | IP Logged 
ChristopherB wrote:
From the thread Alexander Arguelles

ProfArguelles wrote:
...I have gotten into trouble for this before, so let me begin by clarifying that when I say an educated person "should" know half a dozen languages, I mean this "should" as an attainable goal to be striven for,...


Saying an educated person should strive for knowing 6 languages is a bit over the top.

strive: "Make great efforts to achieve or obtain something..." (dictionary.com)

Maybe being a language professor and spending most of one's time associating with students learning languages, people on the net learning languages, etc., instead of with people in the rest of "the real world" makes one hyper-language-centric?

If you don't think so, then what if an engineering professor said: "All educated people should strive for the goal of knowing Mechanical engineering, Civil engineering, Electrical engineering, Aerospace engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Biomedical engineering"?

I don't intend any disrespect with this post, but get real Dr. A., only a tiny, tiny percentage of educated people are going to care to learn 6 languages, or even 2 or 3.





Edited by TerryW on 25 January 2011 at 1:51am

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BobbyE
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 Message 8 of 44
25 January 2011 at 2:16am | IP Logged 
I am all for higher expectations for people. Nothing bad could possibly happen from everyone improving themselves more. Six languages - that's a lot, but I accept his version of raising the bar. I'd imagine that a good standard for educated people is like 3 languages. I also am not sure dead languages are important...

Edited by BobbyE on 25 January 2011 at 2:19am



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