Free Speech

Way back in the latter part of the last millennium, I was a high school student studying German.  My language resources consisted of my teacher and my German grammar/textbook, Deutsh fur Amerikaner.  Nearly forty years after I first practiced the lines, I can still hear my teacher, Frau Petillo intone:

"Klasse, wiederholen sie allezusammen...  Guten morgen, ich heisse Miller." and we'd repeat and respond: "ich heisse Brown"

Moving on in our daily responsive in-class readings, Frau Petillo would ask our Brownian class which cabin we stayed at:

"Welche Kabine haben Sie"?  and we'd all murmur "nummer neun" and Frau Petillo would clasp her hands in toe-curling joy and exclaim:

"Dann sind wir Nachbarn!  Ich habe nummer zehn!"

Yes, indeed, the times have changed since that snippet of secondary-school history.  Now, instead of cracking my grammar book to learn those dative case grabbing prepositions (aus, ausser, bei, mit nach, von zeit, zu), I could simply Google up an EduWeb resource and ignore the entire dative case,  or just hunt around and find  a site like Languages Online to study my prepositions and review my conjugations --if my mind didn't wander off into Indonesian.  I don't even have to buy a book; the sites and the resources are free.

People who expect that the internet exists in English probably have never used UseNet or IRC; they may even think that the World Wide Web IS the Internet. Those people probably have not spent hours (or days) trying to beat some source code into submission while searching sites that, apparently, have just the insight you need to win the  Code War only to spend even more time trying to decipher the programmer's explanation in French..  or German... or Japanese...

Though it still thrives on a fancy website, I have to assume that Esperanto just isn't going to be the global language that unites our global economy; it probably isn't going to be English, either, but that transition is probably many years away.  But forty years after she first taught me German I, Frau Petillo may be pouring over the German speaking UseNet NewsGroups and using IRC to IM her acquaintnces while she explains that steamships can NOT sail up the Weser River: "Die Weser ist nicht tief genug."


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