In explaining the creative/productive features common to all language, Adedun (2010) posits that despite the fact that there are laid down rules that govern the use of language, the users, yes the skilful users, often possess the potential to…create a desired effect or impact… His position therefore establishes the personal input of the language user in the essence or quality of what he/she says with his/her language. What can only be said is that some languages are more developed than others are. However, this does not depreciate the value of such language.
No language has an independent existence of its own, but a particular language dominates when its speakers dominate and vice-versa. History shows that a language becomes a global language due to the political power of its native speakers, and the economic power with which it is able to maintain and expand its position (Luke Mastin).
Worthy of mention is the fact that the English language was, at a point in history, not regarded as a language to be spoken by the ‘elite’ hence was described as a vulgar language – a vernacular. Around 11th century, the nobility of England spoke French and Latin while the common people (masses) spoke varieties of old English. It wasn’t until later in 16th century Britain that English established its position as the national language. Thus, the English went through a series transformation, lexical and grammatical adjustments before it became the most desirable language that it is today. Interestingly, the language is known to tap from other languages to strengthen its vocabulary has over three quarters of the words in modern English, particularly the more learned terms, are borrowed from other languages.
The idea that the ability to speak English – due to its prestigious status as a world language – is a measure of intelligence does not hold water. If it were to be true, great thinkers like Aristotle, Plato, Confucius, Florian, Buddha, Ghandi, who made marks on the sands of history, would not be regarded as intelligent. These sages were of Greek, Chinese, Roman and Indian origins and wrote in their respective languages. In fact, the works of someone like Aristotle has come to be one of the most referenced in English literature.
One can only make a case for intelligence as it relates to the closed group of mainly English speaking people. In this case, the distinction will have to do with the display of intelligence between the native speakers of English (L1speakers) and speakers of English as a second language (L2speakers). The native speakers of English have linguistic competence (intuitive knowledge) of their language. They simply acquire the language naturally and do not need to be taught its rudiments (except for the written aspect). The speaker of the English language as a second language however has to learn it. He does not have an in-built knowledge of its vocabulary and grammar. He therefore requires a level of linguistic intelligence (much more than that of the native speaker) in order to learn and use the language competently.
Certain facts concerning the relevance of English in respect to its speaker(s) cannot be overlooked. For one, the language has risen to a status in which its learning/acquisition and effective use accords its speaker greater prestige and social relevance. Due to its position has a global language, one who speaks it has the benefit to reach a wider audience and make more impact. In addition, since there is a cordial relationship between language and power, the speaker of the English language has a level of social, economic, and political advantage/edge over those who can’t speak it. These privileges notwithstanding, nothing about its use suggest a yardstick for intelligence.
What makes a language prominent is not the language in itself but the value attached to it. For instance, factors like the population of the speakers, its spread, its social, economic, political, technological relevance etc. determines language status. English or any other language cannot be a measure of intelligence. English, like any other language, is merely a medium of expression. The language doesn’t reflect intelligence; rather, the user does. For example, there are those who are fluent in the spoken English but hardly express intelligent opinions.
It’s one thing that the English speaker is intelligent (by himself) and then communicates his intelligence via English. In that case, what makes him intelligent is not the fact that he can speak good English but that he is sound upstairs enough to use English to express himself. Take the Chinese, Indian, Hebrew, Japanese languages as case study. The bulk of progress recorded in technology and science comes from those areas. Interestingly, their citizens are not English speakers. In fact, they don’t encourage its use. Yet they have geniuses and world record breakers in their numbers.
On a lighter note, what would you say about my grandfather who can’t say wa kin pa e (literally-come, let me kill you) in English but exudes wisdom? Truth is most people just hide under the cover of fluent English to shield their ‘foolishness’. Average folks here their fluent speaking and due to inferiority complex think this set of English speakers are better off than they are.
No language is a decimal for intelligence. The speaker invests the language with the prestige and ‘glory’ it attains.
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