A Webley-Fosbery Automatic

David Charles: English Arms Dealer

“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.

Credit: Keary O.
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.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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