In their article Babel is better The Economist encourages education in a person’s mother tongue, rather than English, and they are right to do so. It would have been helpful to explain why from a neurological and personal development point of view, rather than simply rationalise that it is difficult to find teachers that speak English, so here we go.
Thanks to Noam Chomsky we understand language in a deeper, relevant way. Chomsky revealed the critical importance to personal development of each individual’s language. Sadly, over 50 years since the science of linguistics impacted fields of neuroscience and psychology as well as its own field, it remains largely ignored
Language is for thinking. Sometimes it is used for communication.
The faculty for language is distinctive in humans because it demonstrates higher consciousness by unique characteristics, namely meta-cognition and understanding of higher numbers and the idea of “infinity”. The nature of language development in humans is consistent across all humans and differences in form are a function of the environment in which people find themselves. Linguistics would say we all use the same language, just different dialects. Some dialects are close, like “Tom” and “Pam”, others not so, like “English” and “!Kung”.
Each person develops their own language – no two people speak the same language, though they might be close enough to understand one another. I speak “Tom” she speaks “Pam”, yet we understand each other (sometimes!!).
“English”, “French” or “Chinese” are agreed codes to facilitate communication, but they are not representative of nations, for example Gaelic is not Irish or Scottish it is of a Gaelic people. The woman from London’s East End might be unable to communicate with the woman from Healaugh, Yorkshire simply because their dialects are so different, though they speak “English”.
The development of language in each person reveals innate creativity, problem solving abilities and the preference for collaboration. When children are told how to speak these innate, human abilities are suppressed creating a sense of frustration and anger and diminishing each person’s personal development.
As you rightly point out, we should learn language from our mother, not a text book and certainly not from a foreign textbook. If we are to learn other languages, the best way is by immersion, not instruction, during primary school years, as demonstrated by bilinguals. (If immersion occurs in these years there is a good chance different languages will even be acquired without incongruous accents.) The teaching of English, French and Chinese should be addressed just like Science, Maths and Geography – a tool selected by choice.
It is long past due time to change the mistaken views of educational institutions.
Let’s all babble.