“English Too Easy for Hungarians”

That is the title of a WSJ blog piece that describes the latest efforts of the Hungarian government to save the country. I think they are finally on to something. English, they say, is so easy that one can hardly avoid learning it. So, why waste those precious early years on something trivial? Learn French instead, or some other proper language. It seems to me that there are several plausible reasons why they couldn’t go wrong with this policy. 1) The historical record is clear: Any country where English is spoken or was introduced as a language has suffered economically. 2) Clearly, wasting one’s younger years learning an easy language has a negative effect on one’s thinking. I can’t think of a single famous mathematician or scientist or philosopher whose native tongue was/is English. 3) Why learn English, when everybody in the world is doing it? In this new, globalized world, differentiation is the name of the game.

I couldn’t agree more that English is very easy. Not only do all native speakers achieve stunning eloquence by age 12, but even Hungarians master the language by… some age. At least the 10% of the population who speak it… sort of. As this video demonstrates, our (still relatively young) Prime Minister Viktor Orbán can spontaneously switch to English to respond to a question at a press conference. I am glad he didn’t waste his time perfecting his English, but focused on his pre-primeminister studies instead.

Russian used to be very popular compulsory in schools (even in my younger years). I am sure we could still find quite a few Russian teachers who were suddenly out of work 20 years ago. It’s a complicated language, requiring many hours of focused mental effort, and hardly anyone else in Europe speaks it (west of us…). Putting those Russian teachers back to work could be a win-win for everyone.

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