The wagon’s 5th wheel

There are firms or university departments that have English names. There are websites with English versions. There are numberless statements for international exchanges, cross-border projects, global learning or business, about studying abroad and about integration of multiculturalism. Yet courses or exams of English are seen as the 5th wheel of the wagon, which is a Romanian way of saying “something nobody needs”.

I think such an attitude may reveal the true colours of those firms, schools, or individuals. Words don’t cost a thing, as they say, and big words sound good in a portfolio, application for funding, advert or the like. Multiculturalism is ‘in’. Language learning – not really. So one reason for such a contradiction may simply be that multiculturalism is not truly in.

Another reason that I suspect for this contradiction is that big words don’t cost a thing, while language courses or exams do cost something. So it’s much easier to claim you value exchanges than to actually prepare for them. It’s more convenient to pay for a translation of your website than to hire language teachers on a permanent basis, possibly excluding other subjects from the curricula. And it’s handier to set a certain knowledge of English as a recruitment condition (where you will test that knowledge with your empirical, self-cooked ways) than bother yourself with training courses afterwards.

Then, specialists in a field or profession are very often short-sighted. They tend to consider just the direct resources: money, staff, logistics, equipment, and the directly related fields of interest: marketing, finance, leadership, management. Learning a language comes veeeery low on their list and if a course is after all organized, mobile phone calls will always have priority. It’s almost amazing – or terrifying – how superficially we prepare for the big goals or strategies that we have set for ourselves.

Yet another reason, I believe, is that people are inherently lazy and aren’t crazy about courses. If they can talk instead of act, they will most probably talk. If they can pick up a few words from advertising instead of checking them to see their exact meaning, they will choose the first. That’s why language courses are not such a booming business in a united Europe, or in a global world for that matter.

I’m not daydreaming about a world where language teachers are gods. Where language courses are compulsory for every adult until they retire. Where companies have permanent English courses in-house (I met such a case, and it was anything but a success). I’m simply confused about institutions that understand the necessity of at least pretending they are open for international cooperation but don’t understand the necessity of preparing for that.

Or maybe should the international cooperation be done with the help of interpreters and translators?

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