By now you’re probably wondering, what even?
But yes: learning a second language (assuming you speak English at home, ofc) might be problematic, according to noted blogger and internet scholar Patricia Lewinsky (aka @hattypatty and thisisnotadrill.tumblr.com). She says the phenomenon is associated with a higher incidence of social or economic status and unfairly favours the wealthy and better-off, while similarly disfavouring the poor and non-white-presenting demographics.
“It’s hard to believe, I know,” she told us over a croissant and a milkshake, when we met for lunch in Melbourne’s delightful Naughty Boy Cafe. “But this shouldn’t be something we have to explain to people. It’s their responsibility to educate themselves, about how they educate themselves.”
Lewinsky is taking NO PRISONERS.
A recent study conducted by MIT (link) showed that, in a random poll conducted throughout a week in January, taking feedback from over 100 secondary school students, there was a direct correlation between race, economic status, and the opportunity for developing a second language.
“It’s disgusting entering class after class and seeing seas of white faces staring back at you. Knowing that each one of them will use their new language not to experience a culture or to forge real relationships with people from different backgrounds, but to try and reap an economic advantage, and in the process edge out people of colour.”
But what can we do about it? Dr. Lewinsky had a few thoughts on the subject.
“Firstly, it’s the responsibility of the people with privilege to extend a hand to those without it: white people who speak a second language should never speak it in their daily lives. They should even forget the language entirely, if possible. And they should definitely avoid using it for reasons of employment. At the same time, the states should be pushing for classes which target minorities in order to help them develop languages of their choosing so they don’t fall behind.”
In the meantime, if you overhear someone you know is interested in learning a second language, you know what to do: remind them how privileged they are that non-English speakers are willing to come to their country and teach them their language.
It’s not hard to understand.