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Welsh author blasts defence of English monolingualism in The Times

27 Dec 2020 2 minutes Read
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A Welsh author has taken aim at a defence of monolingualism in The Times.

Glyn Williams, from Llanidan, Ynys Mon, who wrote Social Theory and Language criticised a letter that claimed learning “a second language is not essential” because “English is the lingua franca of the developed world”.

The letter by Graham Lloyd, from East Bridgford, Notts, also suggested that time would be “better spent doing something more constructive.”

Mr Williams responded with his own letter in The Times which said that “a knowledge of languages opens our comprehension of the world”, and added that “the ethnocentricity inherent in treating English as the sole native language in the British Isles does a disservice to our shared linguistic heritage.”

Glyn Williams said: “Sir, The defence of a prevailing monolingualism (letter, Dec 23) betrays a materialist understanding of language, treating the learning of languages other than English as a waste of time.

“It ignores the benefits of multilingualism, including the purported cognitive benefits, and how the social and the cultural relate to the subtleties of meaning. A knowledge of languages opens our comprehension of the world.”

 

‘Ethnocentricity’

He added: “Furthermore, the ethnocentricity inherent in treating English as the sole native language in the British Isles does a disservice to our shared linguistic heritage.

“As for which language should be learnt: in Wales the answer should be obvious, if only out of respect for the people and their culture. English may be the prevailing global hegemonic language but such structures never endure.”

The letter by Graham Lloyd said: “Sir, It is all very well knocking the British for our inability to read and write in two languages (letter, Dec 17), but which second language should we learn? French or German perhaps? Spanish? Mandarin?

“For people growing up outside the UK it is simple: English is the lingua franca of the developed world. To succeed in business they must master it.

“But the lingua franca is our native language so a second language is not essential. Mastering a second language is hard and time-consuming.

“Unless one is going to use it every day, in this age of increasingly sophisticated translator apps the time is better spent doing something more constructive.”

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