Tuesday, December 21, 2021


The Shame of a Monoglot

Robert A. Kaster, The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads (2012; rpt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), p. 54:
Now here I have to confess something of which I am deeply ashamed: I do not speak Italian, in fact I speak no language other than English. Given my line of work, I am in this regard very much an oddity: in a university department of fifteen members, a third of whom have English as their second, third, or even fifth language, I am one of only two monoglots. Yes, I can read academic versions of Italian and a couple of the other modern European languages, for professional reasons, just as I can read ancient Greek and Latin. I can even understand spoken Italian reasonably well, provided it is spoken slowly enough for me to picture the words in written form—hearing as another form of reading, that is to say. But those are passive uses of language. When it comes to taking the spoken language in fluently by ear and sending it back out again by mouth—let's just say I'd have to be twice as good as I am to count as poor.

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