More than seven hundred years ago, when the students of la Sorbonne attended a debating session, those young men from different European countries were speaking in Latin, a then dominant language of the educated. Now at the dawn of a new millenium, we are here exchanging our respective views on the impact of English¡ª¡ª a language which is now playing an even larger and much more important role than Latin did in the Middle Ages. With its dominance in almost all the domains of this modern society, English is spoken and learned by people all around the globe, albeit their different nationalities, races, religions and ages. Here I¡¯d like to tell you something interesting concerning my father. My father is 60 years old and will soon retire. When he was in university some forty years ago, he took Russia as his foreign language. So his English knowledge is virtually limited to merely 26 letters. However, one evening last year, I found that when I sat before the television watching CCTV International¡¯s English program ¡°World Wide Watch¡±, father joined me. Puzzled, I asked him, ¡° Daddy, you don¡¯t know English, do you?¡± ¡°No, I don¡¯t. But I¡¯m thinking about learning it.¡± ¡°What¡¯s the use of learning English at your age?¡± I bantered. ¡°Well, I hate to be embarrassed when a foreigner should come up to me on the street and ask me about the way to Sheraton Suzhou,¡± he said, with a half joking of it. Well, I don¡¯t know whether father has ever been embarrassed in such a situation, but I can understand his worries. In fact, in this ever more intimately connected international community, no one can afford to ignore the importance of English, this world standard language, not except my father. I also don¡¯t know whether father can ever learn a bit English after his retirement; to tell the truth, I¡¯m not so optimistic about it. However, I do know why father should take fancy to this lingua franca. That¡¯s because he firmly believes that, China, being confronted with a general process of globalization, which is bringing world cultures in ever-closer union, can introduce itself to the outside world by means of this world standard language. According to father¡¯s interpretation, English is not merely a foreign language utilized by his young daughter to gain a competitive edge in this challenging world. Rather it is a medium, which renders people an opportunity never experienced by our forefathers to communicate more effectively, to understand each other much deeper, and hence to live more harmoniously together. That is exactly what father expects me, a young woman determined to live a life blessed with the far-reaching benefits of multiple cultures in the 21st century, to cherish forever!
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