Georgia’s Linguistic Delusion


The average Georgian parent sounds awfully funny when it comes to the problem of enlightening their precious posterity. I fall into hysterics hearing them reiterate absentmindedly the popular but terribly trivial wisdom about a knowledge of foreign tongues, perpetuating the idea that the more languages we are fluent in, the more of a person we are.

In fact, it is a curse for smaller nations to be so egregiously coerced, for cultural reasons, into learning somebody else’s tongue, be it an ally or a nemesis. Georgia, for instance, was historically compelled at various stages of its development to speak Greek, Arabic, Mongolian, Turkish, Persian, Russian and now English, in addition to its native tongue. For plain survival, Georgians have always needed to be at least bilingual, if not trilingual, for that matter. The historical multi-lingual indispensability persists even today, and it will not end in future either.

The logic of the imposed ‘sweat’ is not rocket science: no matter how lovely and unique our native Georgian is, it is still not enough for us to stay in active touch with the world. And without a tight interconnection with the rest of humankind, we can hardly survive, especially because the world is not prepared at this time to master the Georgian language to communicate with us.

This is just one side of the medal. The other side is that knowledge of foreign languages is in no way a sufficient device for staying alive and sated. We also, if not in the first place, need knowledge of many other instruments of survival, like math, science, computing, technology, genetics, engineering and what not. This is just a short list of tools for our continued existence. Axiomatically, time for human life is strictly limited, and one third of that god-allotted instance is spent on sleep. The remaining amount of lifetime has to be broken up with utmost reason and precision and given to what we truly need to learn to stay alive.

The balance in this kind of time allotment would serve the nation perfectly well. So, if we persist with our kids in talking them into learning as many languages as they can, we might find ourselves on the verge of a precipice of irrationality. Our children should only learn what needs to be learned, and what is dictated by absolutely existential necessity. In the very first place, they need to learn what makes their survival realistic.

Meanwhile, the subsidiary lore like a knowledge of languages has to be subject to very serious deliberation and decision-making. If we spend most of our children’s energy on learning languages, we will never make survival-oriented money-makers out of them. Languages do not make money unless they are professionally used by teachers and translators or as an auxiliary qualification for a specialist. Well, if we want to learn a foreign language for fun, that’s OK of course, but spending most of our time on languages, hoping that a polyglot has a better chance of survival, is simply wrong.

It might be plausibly helpful to learn the language of the country of which we want to become a permanent citizen, but this is a horse of a totally different color. So, let us tell our kids that the connection with the rest of the world may be made and maintained via the most usable language of the world. The main sense that I am trying to put into this didactic piece is that we should not overload our kids with learning every language in the world that they come across accidentally, but only the one that makes their future life definitely more qualitative than without it. And time must be given to learning sciences in their stead, which will determine what kind of people and what sort of survivors our little ones are going to make in the future. The delusion that we are overwhelmed with, only in terms of our education in general, would not allow us and our children to be as reasonable as we should, but this does not mean that our eyes must be closed forever. We will certainly see the light someday. The matter is how soon!

By Nugzar B. Ruhadze

05 September 2019 18:29