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Language studies and the gift of tongues

     Then the U.S. government promoted language and area programs in our universities, languages played a reading role. I was asked to start the Latin American program, and our seminars in Bolivar House were conducted in either Spanish or Portuguese. This annoyed the social scientists, especially the historians, who in general were inarticulate in foreign languages, even Spanish.
     They got their revenge when the Ford Foundation, with its money, promoted mathematics and models, pushing languages and geography into the background. Bad English became the lingua franca of the revised programs, from which I for one withdrew, shaking the dust from my shoes.
     Recently, the foundations made a great discovery. Languages and geography are important in international studies. Praise Ford et al., from whom all blessings flow. Stanford´s price for reviving geography has not been met, but it will host in June an important conference on languages and international studies. I shall be there just listening to the news about this great awakening.
     There are two important omissions in the program. I have called the committee´s attention to the silence about SCOLA, which performs an invaluable service in the field.
     The second omission is religion and the gift of tongues. On May Day in St. Peter´s Square, Pope John Paul beatified Parde Pio before a crowd of 400,00 people. Presumably most of them came from Southern Italy, where Padre Pio worked his miracles. The South is the home of ancient piety and the mafia, whereas the north is relatively impious.
     Padre Pio has all the prerequisites of sainthood. Photographs of his body showed the stigmata, and he has performed numerous miracles. More important for us, he had the gift of tongues, which we are told meant that he spoke several languages without having studied them. I am sure I cannot persuade the committee to heed this example. Think of what would do to our language departments!

Ronald Hilton - 05/08/99