David Charles: English Arms Dealer

A Webley-Fosbery Automatic

“Having another language is like having a gun.”

So said one of my English students. And, I realised, he’s right.

There are two ways of persuading people of your point of view: a firearm or rhetoric.

A Webley-Fosbery Automatic
Credit: Keary O.
The firearms of rhetoric
Credit: Dimitris Papazimouris



By this logic, as an English teacher, I am basically an arms dealer; an English arms dealer. I provide students with the weapons they need to get what they want in English.

This concept, of course, has a sinister side to it. Not everyone wants to learn a language to communicate in peace and harmony with the native speakers of that language. The best language school in the world? Arguably the United States Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey. And they don’t teach Arabic so that they can read كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة‎ One Thousand and One Nights

But, on balance, I’d rather be selling words than arms because at least words can be used for peace.

What do you think?