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Four Words for Friend Reviews

Four Words for Friend by Marek Kohn

Four Words for Friend: Why Using More Than One Language Matters Now More Than Ever

Marek Kohn

Score pending

2 reviews

Category: Non-fiction, Psychology
Imprint: Yale University Press
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 1 Feb 2019
ISBN: 9780300231083

A compelling argument about the importance of using more than one language in today's world

4 stars out of 5
10 Mar 2019

"braves the much contested question of the relationship between language and thought"

Kohn touches upon some of the circumstances that have led to people in the UK being harassed for the audacity of not speaking English in a public place (we’ve all seen footage). He is cautious about judgment, though, preferring to consider generally the ways in which a language might be used to define the boundaries of a group: to define who are the ‘insiders’, and therefore also, by exclusion, who are the outsiders...Most people with a habit of using more than one language (including heritage speakers like Kohn and me) comfortably understand languages as complementing one another, rather than competing for exclusive territorial rights...Kohn also braves the much contested question of the relationship between language and thought, and in his small-scale examples, his evidence is particularly fascinating.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Steven Poole
7 Mar 2019

"The case for multilingualism"

This beautifully written book is, indeed, a defence of cosmopolitanism against Theresa May’s nasty jibe: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.” The author, a native Polish speaker, makes a powerful case for knowing more than one language as a life-enriching skill that may enlarge our sympathies in a world that wants to build walls. Though, as Kohn unsentimentally points out, linguistic differences can sometimes be erected as walls themselves. In Papua New Guinea, home to 800 languages, one village decided to change its word for “No” so as to be different from its neighbours.