Friday, January 13, 2012

Ave, Philosophy Bites (Nigel Warburton)!

I saw this tweet just now from Nigel Warburton's Philosophy Bites Twitter feed: free philosophy courses. Looks like a winner, if you're looking for informal instruction. And the sidebar has links to other useful courses, e.g., free language courses. I may hit those links up to improve my German and Spanish.

One of my Korean cousins lives in Germany and doesn't speak much English, so the German might be useful should I ever visit him in Europe. As for Spanish-- well, there's hardly a need to talk about the prevalence of Spanish in the US.

At my job, I often get Spanish questions from students. No one being tutored at YB seems to take French: it's either Spanish or Latin. That may be a reflection of the student demographic at our tutoring center: mostly Korean, Indian, Chinese, and Vietnamese, with a smattering of white and black students. Spanish is the language of choice for most students thanks to its unjustified reputation as an "easy" language to learn.* Latin, meanwhile, is the choice of academically driven students (or the driven parents of those students) who have been told that "Latin will help you on the SAT."**

Vast are the fields of cyberspace. There's much to explore-- much of it free.

*For US English speakers, Spanish is easier to pronounce than French, and the spelling of Spanish words corresponds very closely to how they sound, with few exceptions. Aside from that, however, Spanish and French are equally complex in terms of grammar (a Cuban-American classmate at Georgetown once told me that the Spanish subjunctive mood is actually more complex than it is in French) and other subtleties.

**This strikes me as a dumb reason to take Latin, and if SAT-mastery is what Latin is all about, then public schools should also be offering classes in ancient Greek. I had only two weeks of Latin, yet have managed to build up an extensive knowledge of Greek and Latin roots through my own classroom and independent study. There are other reasons to take Latin, some of which may have something to do with edification and character-building thanks to the discipline involved in learning the language, but most of which have to do with the ability to access classical works of literature directly.


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