Klingon 1: Reasons to Teach Klingon to Every Student

Teachers frequently complain about curriculum overload. That doesn’t stop politicians and others proposing new curriculum subjects or topics. So on this day, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first broadcast of Star Trek, join me in a thought experiment about adding to the curriculum a subject that few have considered.

Star Trek films are hugely popular and the thirteenth film in the series was released earlier in 2016. Klingon is the language spoken by Klingons in the Star Trek film series. A case can be made for teaching Klingon to every student in our primary and post-primary schools.

As humans we use language to think. Just as any single language shapes how we think, learning a second language can help us broaden our thinking and help us think in a different way.

Fluency in the language would introduce students to an aspect of culture that has proven to be hugely popular and enduring for several decades now. References to the Klingon language and phrases from it have appeared in films, TV programmes and advertisements. A side effect of learning the language would be that children would come to appreciate other aspects of Star Trek movies which have influenced so much of contemporary culture.

It would send a signal to those who claim that school curricula are outdated or irrelevant that schools are adaptable, and capable of incorporating aspects of contemporary culture in order to bring the curriculum and the culture closer together.

The fact that Klingon is a made-up language may limit its appeal, when compared to the benefits of learning an authentic and widely-spoken language such as Mandarin or Hindi. Yet, the made-up nature of the language could illustrate to students the creativity of which humans are capable and may inspire them to create or be entrepreneurial in their thoughts and actions. It could also serve to make them aware of how different languages are structured.

If Klingon were to be spoken widely by children, it may help develop the language. It would advance it from being a technical or made-up language and bring it closer to one that is living and developing through daily use. Indeed the language already has multiple dialects, something it has in common with existing languages.

An objection may be the time needed to teach another language given that curriculum overload is a feature of many school systems. Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be a courageous move to say, “Teaching this would be ambitious and worthwhile. We’ll do our best to try it out and find sufficient time to make the aspiration achievable. Let’s pilot it for five years and at that stage review how we’ve done.”

Bringing about such change would test the courage and commitment of policy makers and it would test the responsiveness of the wider education infrastructure.

[To be continued tomorrow]

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