Learn a language, but not a human one

Learn a language, but not a human one
The Tower of Babel (detail), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563. (Via Wikipedia)

[Ed. – The author makes a valid point about the importance of learning a computer language. But why do a swap, as he suggests? Why can’t schools teach coding and foreign languages? Discuss amongst yourselves.]

Donald Trump, whose wife speaks five languages, just wrapped up a pair of trips to Europe during which he spoke only English. Good for him. If Mr. Trump studied a language in college or high school, as most of us were required to, it was a complete waste of his time. I took five years of French and can’t even talk to a French poodle.

Maybe there’s a better way for students to spend their time. Last month Apple CEO Tim Cook urged the president: “Coding should be a requirement in every public school.” I propose we do a swap.

Why do American schools still require foreign languages? Translating at the United Nations is not a growth industry. In the 1960s and ’70s everyone suggested studying German, as most scientific papers were in that language. Or at least that’s what they told me. In the ’80s it was Japanese, since they ruled manufacturing and would soon rule computers. In the ’90s a fountain of wealth was supposed to spout from post-Communist Moscow, so we all needed to learn Russian. Now parents elbow each other getting their children into immersive Mandarin programs starting in kindergarten.

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