Suzette Haden Elgin is a specialist in applied psycholinguistics and the founder and director of the Ozark Center for Language Studies, and has written many language-related bestsellers, such as the whole Gentle Art of Verbal Defense series and How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable. And now she's come out with a new book on language, The Language Imperative, to tackle the issue of multilingualism. She suggests that people in the U.S. suffer a fair amount of confusion over the power and importance of languages. And she asks a number of questions, as well, such as "Is it a good or a bad idea for people in this country to have command of two languages?", Should we have an international language, or is this a silly (or perhaps dangerous) idea?", and "Do languages have the power to shape our lives as individuals and as a nation?"
She sets out to establish the importance of multilingualism, to explain why there is so much confusion and contradiction when it comes to multilingualism, and to discuss the effects of multilingualism on individuals and communities. Elgin did a tremendous amount of research (from traditional sources such as journals and studies, as well as from hundreds of multilinguals around the world). She concludes that human languages do structure and influence how people think and perceive; that the link between language and culture is so strong that if you take away the language, the culture is lost; and ultimately, that multilingualism is terrifically valuable, and should be encouraged in all ways. Elgin fleshes out her ideas with interviews and examples, and presents all the sides that weigh in on these issues. Her voice is strong, her prose precise, provocative, and engaging, and her book worth the read--perhaps many times, and in a variety of languages. --Stephanie Gold [via]