Teaching is the topic for today, class. Open your books and kiss my ass.
Give a man a fish and he’ll resent you for it.
Give a Khmer a fish and he’ll stomp it into goo and leave the mess to rot in a jar for a few weeks before he even considers taking a bite from it.
Teach a man to fish and he’ll likely never cast a net. He’ll call himself a Teacher of Fishing as a Sustenance Method, offer classes, and purport to impart some imaginary skill set. All the same, you can bet that his students will still get wet, and they’ll still be going hungry; still be taking on loan debt. The fish can all sleep soundly as they’re under no real threat.
Teach a Khmer to fish and as soon as he has his hook so much as baited, they whose greed is never sated will proceed to bury the lake with tons and tons of dead dry dirt.
Our intrepid Khmer, fishing vacant lots or empty waters: they are landless farmers with nowhere to grow, nowhere to go, no use for what they know. What the hell do they know? Well, they know that when Power is so capricious and arbitrary it is more rule by madness than by method, more senseless than malicious, more stupid than mean. Petty but grandiose, always dangerous and demanding, it devours the hearts of others until no others are left standing.
All is lost? No, fear not. There is an answer. There is a way out. There is a solution, but it requires a pay out. They can steal your land, fire you from your job, tax or fine your money and drive you into penury. What can you, the long suffering Khmer of glorious heritage and noble lineage, keep away from the prying claws they call fingers and reptilian eyes?
Teach a man to speak English and who can ever take that away from him? The cat can get your tongue, but you’ll still know that it’s called a tongue, at least that’s the word in our new Global Tongue.
Apologies to Esperanto, but the position has been filled by popular decree. Nobody with any sense wanted to learn the hippy equivalent of Klingon. Not when the world was already, most organically, and however miserably, abundant with languages, and not just one, two, or three. Thousands. A language dies every two weeks, in the abstract, when its last known native speaker dies, and he dies in the concrete and occasionally on the concrete, whatever the case may be. It almost certainly isn’t a happy life to be the last living anything, XY or Z.
Of course, when only one person speaks a language, it is well and truly doomed already, unless they are planning on having children: a strangely sunny choice to make when your culture has met its own apparent doomsday. If we wanted to be particularly charitable, or monstrously cruel, we could lend this Last Living speaker a child or two to raise, and bear witness to a biological miracle as their soft pink brains, all wrinkled, rearrange themselves to speak as spoken to in turn. It looks like a cheap trick at first, nothing to it, easily faked by anyone. Except it isn’t a trick. It’s about as much magic as you’re going to get away with in this world.
Any two orphans from any two mothers with any two brains and any any any thing can be handed over to anybody and anyone, from any part, parcel, sect or section of humanity and nigh inevitably they will reliably and efficiently acquire the language of their adopted paternity or maternity. Through exposure, like a virus spreading vertically through successive generations.
English, today, is the language most powerfully virulent, though Mandarin is a popular sickness, and Spanish persistently infectious. There are seven thousand languages left on Earth. Two of them die off every month. You do the math. I’m an English teacher, I’ve never ever even been close to half-way qualified for calculations.
I teach English, because with English, all things are possible.
Teach a man, a woman, a child, a chimpanzee, a precocious dolphin or a chess playing super computer. Teach them a friendly phrase or two or three and you’ll see that absolutely anything might happen! Behold the world in all its vast possibilities.
Vast possibilities. Fancy being famous in films? Listen closely next time you’re watching a movie on Cambodian TV. That’s right! The dialogue? Bingo. It used to be in English before they dubbed it into English half-shouted by cartoonishly imbecilic voice actors. Both versions are in English, technically, just one of them sans-dignity. You’ll be forgiven if you weren’t able to tell straight away, but the subtitles are supposed to be in English as well; however, they appear to have been wrought via the use of unfinished software originally created for the Beta test in an early attempt by Apple at Siri voice recognition software, circa 1980.
What else can you do with English? Everything. How about financing the Fortune 500? Why, the very name itself – Fortune 500 – is indeed one with extremely English origins, as all of the words (technically three when written out long form) are, it can be said on a factual basis, English words.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be, because I can do you one better:
You’re reading this in English right now.
Professors, Poets, Presidents, Popes! They’ve all been known to be in the know, word wise, often taking first prize, by just letting that English flow. They write hot sonnets for harlots and win furious debates against top potentates. They declare war by demonstrating devastating and terrifying diction, and they possess the new knowledge of the true nature of novels and bestselling fiction. They are verbalizing and enterprising.
Listen up when the closing bell clangs, the cash register ka-chings, the police siren sings, that isn’t your ears burning, just your traditional things. That’s the sound of English in your ears so you’d better have stars in your eyes, just so you realize, this is the kind of privilege language buys. It’s always them that you worship and it’s you that they despise.
With English on your side, You Just Might Be (maybe) Somebody (someday?) You could be… Important! Eloquent! Powerful!
All of the above! And the classes are enjoyable. You’ll play games and have fun. Memorize that vocab to beef up that blab-blab! Pass that quiz, fail that test. Skip most of the homework, half-ass all the rest.
This is your ticket to the ranks of humanity and decency – achieved by talking to white people with communicative competency!
A word of caution, speaking (in English) candidly: English is the language of the powerful, and the Native Tongued Powers are ever always needful of those like yourself who are servile, poor, and colorful. But we’d like your ears to perk up properly, we want you to be understanding us unerringly, as you receive the commandments of our Empire under the sneer of our Authority.
Did I say speak English?
No, I meant only LISTEN
Now you may step-in
With a prompt “Yes, Sir!”
or a “Thank You, Come Again!”
Ned is also on twitter.