오늘밤, 당신이 빠르게 지나간 하루를 마무리 하면서,
당신을 스쳐간 많은 이들 중 단 한사람에게라도 도움을 주었다고 말할수 있나요?
어느 단 한 사람이라도 당신의 말과 행동에 기뻐 하였나요?
희망을 잃어가던 누군가가 이제 용기를 되찾아 다시 앞을 내다보게 될까요?
Прошёл день – ты его в пустую упустил,
Иль провёл его с пользой, тщательно потратил?
Осталась за тобой доброты дорожка,
Иль шрам недовольства — следок жизни большой?
Когда закроешь глаза, уходя ко сну,
Ты думаешь: Бог, видя, одобрит труд твой?
Скажет ли Он: "Ты заслужил ещё один завтрашний свет,
Твои дела сегодня – награда за вчерашний путь"?
Taiga, Rammy, Jeongwoo and Nikita read us a poem in their languages. Apologies to everyone who only understood part of the reading…or quite possibly none of it.
As you will have guessed, I am very old. So old in fact, that at the end of the fifth form, I didn’t take GCSE exams, rather I was part of the last year to take O levels, and, amongst the subjects I took were German and French. I must admit that I found languages hard – French more so than German. I had to go over and over material, learning vocab, practising grammar and so on…and I found speaking the languages especially challenging. As a sixteen year old, I had only ever left these shores once, and I had never been to either France or Germany and, to be honest, when O levels were done, I was quite pleased to leave languages behind.
Except that, a few years later, I was to find that speaking English, and English alone wasn’t enough. I briefly worked for an American company based in the French speaking part of Belgium. At work, although plenty of French was spoken, many people were English or American and English was the official language meaning that I could get by. However, along with two others I lived with a French speaking family who had sons and daughters in their twenties like me…and they only spoke French. I can still remember desperately trying to remember my limited O level knowledge so that I could converse with them, or to buy things in shops, or when someone came to the house with a delivery or when travelling by train or bus. At the start, in particular, it was really hard, sometimes quite scary and I remember knowing that I desperately needed to do better.
And of course, all these feelings acted as an incentive. Over time, somehow I started to manage to speak and understand a little more. It was almost as though seeing and hearing the French language – working to understand what was said to me and trying to reply in broken sentences – meant that some was absorbed and life got a little easier.
I am definitely no modern language or EAL teacher and sadly because I have hardly used French for the past thirty years, I have forgotten at least as much as I learned, but two occasions stick in my mind. One was managing to have a haircut at a French-speaking barbershop and another occasion, was when I spent an evening with a group of folk, similar in age to me, who spoke no English, but I knew just enough to enjoy my time with them and to connect with them.
Of course, here amongst us are those who spend all day hearing and speaking in a language that is not their own – just as many of us did when we heard today’s reading. It might be that they miss the odd subtlety, speak English with a slightly different accent but we recognise that it is far from easy to do what they do so successfully – to learn and live in an environment where English is spoken nearly the whole time
And all of this made me think:
Firstly, as a nation the UK really is quite poor at speaking other languages. I include myself in that but there are notable exceptions including amongst us now…but if you can speak more than one language with any degree of proficiency you will be a rare commodity and that will serve you well when it comes to employment and in life more generally. You will understand that based on the law of supply and demand, we need to develop skills and expertise that are in short supply – languages included.
Secondly, there are those who say that artificial intelligence will one day mean that we won’t need to learn languages ourselves – but I don’t think that’s quite right. When we develop a knowledge of another tongue, we don’t just replace words or phrases: what time is the train to Birmingham, please…or can I have a number two on the sides and the back – you won’t need to cut the top…– no familiarity with another language enables us to communicate with others in a broader sense, to interact socially, human to human, to connect with others…as we do, I hope, across the community here.
And finally, there will be a small prize for the first pupil who emails me with the correct title (in English) of the poem that Taiga, Rammy, Jeongwoo and Nikita read so well in Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Korean and Russian. They are sworn to secrecy, and I hope we can present an award of some form this time next week.