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Thứ Ba, 20 tháng 1, 2015

About Foreign Tongues

           
                                                                SOMERSET MAUGHAM

           It is hard enough for us to know our own people; we deceive ourselves, we English especially, if we think we can know those of other lands. For the sea-girt isle sets us apart and the link that a common religion gave, which once mitigated our insularity, was snapped with the Reformation. It seems hardly worthwhile to take much trouble to acquire a knowledge that can never be more than superficial. I think then it is merely waste of time to learn more than a smattering if foreign tongues. The only exception I would make to this is French, for French is the common language of educated men and it is certainly convenient to speak it well enough to be able to treat of any subject of discourse that may arise. It has a great literature; other countries, with the exception of England, have great writers, rather than a great literature; and its influence on the rest of the world has, till the last twenty years, been profound. It is very well to be able to read French as easily as if it were your native tongue. There are limits, however, to the excellence with which you should allow yourself to speak it. As a matter of practice, it is a good to be on your guard against an Englishman who speaks French perfectly; he is very likely to be a cardsharper or an attaché in the diplomatic service.