…Ὣς οἵ γ’ ἀμφίεπον τάφον Ἕκτορος ἱπποδάμοιο (1).
Let me introduce myself. I am a thirty five years old man, married, living in countryside and raising a wonderful little girl. Nothing unusual there.
But, you see, back in college, and even in high school, I used to study latin, ancient greek and also european classical litterature. It may seem a little bit strange to you, I don’t know, but it used to be very common. Once.
After graduating, I naturally started to teach latin and greek to teenagers from sixth to twelfth grades, more or less reproducing the same old pattern I had experienced.
What the hell is he telling me, you think, hum ?
As a matter of fact, I have to confess, if I don’t want to lie too much, that I haven’t taught latin or greek to anyone at all in a long time. Still, during my studies I had become reasonably utraque doctus lingua (2), as Cicero called his friend Atticus in his letters. Obviously, I had been trained to imbue children with these two ancient cultures and tongues.
Yet, for many reasons that I will explain further, the only thing I am now expected to do in my current job is to try to teach yougsters their mother tongue. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not complaining : I really love this job !
I’m sure you’re thinking : what’s wrong with you, man ? That’s annoying now ! Wait before leaving ! I’ll start to unveil my concerns at once !
There. I’m a French guy, living in France and teaching to secondary school pupils of my own country.
Oh no ! A French guy ! The worst kind of snotty whiner ! I knew it !
Wait, wait, wait, let me explain ! Why am I boring you in English ? And mediocre English no less, when I could pen way better in my own tongue.
That’s the point.
Is it to be easily understood by foreigners ? No, that’s not my goal. Not that I will be disapointed if you, dear reader, are a foreigner. All I’m saying is that that’s not my point. However, I do promise to do my best. From now and in advance, pardon my ugly globish, full of solecisms, and maybe worse. Sorry again, but as you know well, the French are hopeless at learning foreign languages !
So why am I writting in English now ? Because I recently decided to become a kind of seer.
Is this guy crazy or what ?
Do not worry, I’m not the kind of seer who robs your money pretending to read future into tea leaves or some bullshit like that. I would like to be the kind of seer who offers a mirror in which we all can see a potential future.
Virgil announced a new golden age in his wonderful fourth eclogue. Incipe, parue puer, risu cognoscere matrem (3), he advised us. So did I, but I didn’t recognize her. Is my alma mater gone for good this time ?
Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo (4), he also wrote. It seems that sentence is now the lyrics of our new anthem. Let the past be the past, let the dead with the dead, they told us. Are we some fucking wraiths still wandering on the land we lived in ?
When something is dead, why would you try to reanimate it ? Would all of this not seem a little bit necrophilic to you ? Nam et infernum claustra et salutis tutelam in dea manu posita (5)… and, unlike the son of Venus and Anchises, we have neither the help of the Cuma uirgo (6) for leading us in a new κατάϐασις (7), nor the Golden Bough (8) in our hands.
«There is no alternative» told us another maiden, and at that time they were not sybilline words . Everybody listened carefully her iron speech. And tina, suddently, was no longer the accusative form of τίς (10) but a path we had to follow. Sic transit gloria mundi (9)…
Then, we forsook our old dusky way to meet the universal dawn, bright in the sky as Sol Inuictus. We had to change a lot to comply with the new mode of doing. Our school, for example, was not worth a wooden nickel !
Who knows why we spent so much time at learning our mother tongue for centuries ? So we decided to change : where children in elementary school used to spend 70,5 cumulated hours a week studying french in the 30′, they only work today 36 hours at learning it. You’ll find a similar ratio in middle school and high school.
I have to tell you something. Nowadays, It occurs quite often that an thirteen years old pupil spells a word the wrong way. It’s not so bad, you’ll say and you’re right. But what would you think if I tell you he properly spells it as it’s written in English ? For example, French children write hero and not héros. No «s», no accent.
We have to mourn the time when students knew all this orthographic pile of shit, they told us. Ok, let’s mourn. As a teacher, I have to confess that by the past, I had myself a lot of concerns with orthograph. I was badly educated too.
For centuries, in the south of Europe, we used to have a school modele. It depended on humanities. In my opinion, it provided wonderful results. It started in ancient Rome, then continued by discovering the whole Greek world, so various and different. At the end you knew a little about Egypte, Persia, India. Some learned a little bit of sanskrit. You knew about semitic area, Akkad and Phoenicia. A thousand worlds, way of thinking or feeling or believing were opened in a teenager’s mind. Litterature tried to enhance empathy and psychologic skills. Everthing was done to take out the young mind of his world. It was the only way imagined to build a free spirit, unsoiled by the bias of his time.
However, they told us it was oudated. Learning both Latin and Greek became almost impossible in high school. Twenty years ago you had no lunch break if you wanted to study those two languages. Today it’s impossible, you have to choose the one or the other.
Our gouvernement recently decided to withdraw latin and greek from the middle school study programs. Once and for all, we turned the page.
You guessed my point now ? Yeah ! You get it ! Let’s all Globish !
Let’s suppose our next generations won’t be ever able to read Montaigne, Racine, Plutarch, Ovid or even Newton, why will we have to strive so hard to teach such a difficult tongue ? Do not learn French ! Let’s all learn Globish. We’ll never be able to read Paradise lost, Manfred or Wuthering heights either but we’ll all enjoy a good Hollywood blockbuster or a succesfull page-turner.
Speaking Globish is thinking Globish. Is it really what we want ?
Yeah ! I succeed in globishing two pages ! I’m fucking proud ! It’s all new for me to be a precursor, you know, because I used to belong to the pigs, not to the wasps. Though, a part of me is still feeling unconfortable, like crying or something. What a silly part of me ! Quae cum ita sint, anima mea, perge quo coepisiti ! egredere aliquando ex urbe, patent portae, proficiscere !
(1) dernier vers de l’Iliade, Chant XXIV. « Et c’est ainsi qu’ils célébrèrent les funérailles d’Hector, dompteur de cavales »
(2) « savant dans l’une et l’autre langue » expression signifiant en contexte connaître le latin et le grec.
(3) « Commence, petit enfant, à reconnaître ta mère à son sourire » Bucoliques, Virgile
(4) » Le grand ordre des siècles recommence intégralement » Bucoliques, Virgile.
(5) » C’est que les clés de l’enfer et la garantie du salut sont aux mains de la déesse », Apulée, les métamorphoses, Chant XI.
(6) » La vierge de Cumes », il s’agit de la Sibyle guidant Énée aux Enfers durant le chant VI de l’Énéide.
(7) « descente aux enfers », en contexte.
(8) Le rameau d’or, objet mystérieux devant être offert à Perséphone.
(9) « ainsi passe la gloire du monde »
(10) j’en vois déjà pinailler et me dire que c’est aussi le nominatif neutre pluriel !