Friday, 7 March 2014

The Curse of Monolingualism

One of the glories of my octogenarian decade is my seven year old Daniel Patrick Moynihan Hazard's bilingualism. His nightly tutor is my Ossie Frau Hildegarde Haltrich-Hazard (47). (Don't tell me the DDR was all bad (there are seven doctors, three of them women, in my closest relatives, thanks to the Frankische Stiftung in Halle am Salle. And I was always a whiz at language, beginning at ten as a Roman Catholic altar boy who had to memorize the responses at daily Mass, deepened five years later by similar exercises in the church choir.

And at Detroit's minor Sacred Heart Seminary I was the class whiz at Greek. So after two years in the Navy as a radar technician, I entered the Jesuit University of Detroit as a philosophy major. I passed the predoctoral exam in French as a junior and German as a senior in 1949. I was ready for graduate school at Cleveland's Western Reserve University.

I didn't use the German enough so that when I migrated to Weimar to research and write "Bauhaus: Myths and Realities" (finished on my 87th birthday, 2/8/14) accessible free at my blog, my vocabulary had shrunk to a pitiful two words, morgen and gestern, which I invariably messed up backwards. Thus a hunger for news made me visit the Goethe Platz booth laden to buy the New York Times six days a week.

I soon realized I was more interested in the"Verkauferin" than the "Zeitung" so we flew to San Francisco where my best friend from Philly, Jake McGoldrick (professor of English as a Second Language at the Jebbie U of San Francisco and Burgermeister from his Richmond district) wed us on the City Hall steps. Now Hilly was my daily tutor in relearning German. 

I believe monolingualism is one of most serious intellectual weaknesses, since it encourages our utterly false concept of American Exceptionalism, the 17th century Puritan lie that God saved the North American continent for the white European to settle there! I fought this disastrous falsehood by gradually transforming American Literature into International English Lit, first by adding Afro-American poetry and fiction, then Appalachian fiction and drama in the 60', followed by Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and finally as I began to teach summers in Beaver College's London program, the entirely diverse Commonwealth Literature in England, Africa. and Asia.

And relearn German. Which I did by reading "Bild" every day--to the sneers of my colleagues, who falsely consider it intellectual junk. (In human health and nutrition and animal life) it consistently is very superior to even the best dailies like FAZ. Their sex trash is gradually, but unmistakably diminishing in my fifteen year extracurricular tuition. 

My other tool is the biweekly Apotheke "Umschau" which I take freely from the drugstore at the end of Schillerstrasse the first and fifteen of every month: features wisely geared to the seasons. I suddenly realized this at the obits last week of that magazine's originator, one Rolf Becker. See Jürgen Wolfram's essay ,"Für Kunst and Kunde" in "The Southern German News" p.35 on 25 February.

No comments: