Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/345

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341
ENGLISH AS AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE

scholar and scientist in the world has to learn German first, and possibly French second. In this connection, again, the claims of Italian are too often disregarded in America, and yet there is hardly any branch of learning in which Italy is not doing excellent work. We had occasion, this year, in an English-speaking university, to use the Italian translation of a Danish work on the old French epic. This is a small but typical instance of the growing cosmopolitanism of science, and of the usefulness of Italian.

But, in the world of science just as in the world of commerce, the so-called minor languages show an increasing tendency not to recognize the privilege of the three or four now in possession. Berthelot complained that, whilst in his youth, with four modern languages only at his command, he could keep in touch with scientific activity everywhere, he could no longer do so at the dawn of the twentieth century. Science does not quite obliterate national susceptibility. Scientists work for their compatriots primarily. Perhaps they shirk the effort which the use of a foreign tongue always involves; perhaps they are afraid of the traps winch the grammar of French, English or German is fenced round with, and in which even the wary may fall. Scandinavian, Dutch and Slavonic scientists still use the recognized world-languages occasionally in preference to their own; but there is a growing body of untranslated and often valuable works in Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Russian. The unification of scientific literature under German hegemony is fast becoming a dream, and English hegemony the shadow of a dream.

The position held by English in commerce, by German in science, belongs to French in the world of "polite culture"—diplomacy, society, art and letters. It is a well-known fact that this position is not what it used to be. "William II. is an accomplished French scholar and an admirer of Frederick the Great; yet he does not cultivate the tongue of Anatole France as his ancestor that of Voltaire. The Gallophobia of twenty years ago no longer blinds Berlin to the merits of France, yet the Prussian Academy would not as in 1784 crown a modern Rivarol for an essay on the universality of the French language. There has been, almost everywhere, a sharp and often unjust reaction against French influence. The Belgian Flamingants have revived their neglected dialect, and secured for it absolute equality with French. In Bumania, where the Frenchification of the upper classes had gone to almost incredible lengths and was threatening to stifle the legitimate development of national culture, there have been actual riots against the "Bonjouristes." And the predominance of French in the Mediterranean is not so exclusive as it once was.

However, the position of French is much stronger than most Americans believe. America welcomes our lecturers, our actors; few colleges are without a French club, and even in small towns, ladies will meet