One of the consequence of the posh European boarding school education I received, along with a natural caution toward catholic priests and a deep-rooted aversion for ties and other imposed uniforms, is that I spent an insanely high amount of time studying languages that were obviously not intended for me to speak (otherwise the Almighty, in his infinite wisdom and great powers, would have had me born somewhat closer to Rome, or the Acropolis, a few milleniums earlier).While the quantity and diversity of languages placed upon our little heads already sounded like a lot to us enlightened worldly junior citizens, it would have sounded like sheer madness to your average Texan, to whom “foreign language” abilities merely means understanding people without a twang. And while most Americans are quick to point out the possible use of Spanish to order your domesticity around in the Land of Opportunity, I must admit it’s becoming harder by the day to find such use to say, ancient Greek or Latin. It’s a shame too, since at the rate things are going in the US, legal slavery should probably be amended back into the constitution soon enough, and I’ve always fancied living in a patrician mansion surrounded by domesticated exotic felines and nubile servants to whom I would quite naturally speak Greek or Latin exclusively… Anyway, yea, the point of learning languages: well, I clearly remember that, every year, each teacher would devote an entire class to convincing us of the well-founded interest of whatever language they were teaching. Of course, nobody really cared, and in the end, the fact that German was bound to “become the universal language within the economical behemoth that the European Union would unavoidably become by the year 1990”, was completely overshadowed by the fact that our young Bavarian teacher sported a pair of mammary glands seemingly capable of sustaining Switzerland’s chocolate milk production for the next decade… ah Frau Serin, how we missed the way you bent forward to rectify that misplaced umlaut on our notebook… especially when your successor, Frau Wagner, turned out to be some kind of hairy troll straight from the Black Forest, whose love for that oxymoron called German Poetry might have been forgivable, if not for her near-complete deafness and ensuing strident level of speech.
Ich weeeeeeiiiss nicht was soll es bedeeeeeuten, daß ich so traaaauurig bin, ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten, das kommt mir nicht aus dem Siiiiiinnnn Our Greek teacher was this adorably effeminate dandy, whose perpetuation of certain stereotypes, linking this brave antique civilization of fierce warriors with an inclination for the love that dares not speak its name, ought to have been outlawed by the cliché police… He was certainly more entertaining as a teacher than his predecessor, a former catholic nun who, incidentally, was also a doctor in comparative literature, studying parallels in the work of French poet Gérard de Nerval and Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki. Was she a riot or what.
All these people all had very elaborate arguments on the philological use of these two essential root languages and assured us that learning any other Indo-European languages in the future would be laughably easy (damn, I’m sure glad I picked Japanese, the one language furthest removed from that language group). But let’s be serious, the reason why we endured endless hours of declensions, vocabulary lists and grammar nitpicking, was certainly not some kind of hypothetical career move involving the ability to read Cicero or Plato in its original text…