I also studied overseas (that school in Canada) with people from all round the world. Some of them had minimal English when they arrived, and thus only started learning science in English then, at the age of 16-17. Again, many of them have gone on to successful careers in science.
Conversely, I have a now-graduated labmate who grew up speaking English in Swaziland, went to a university in Taiwan that taught in Mandarin (which she didn't speak when she started), then got her doctorate in the US. Now THAT's some language flexibility in the sciences. OTOH, I know that at least some European universities teach the sciences in English at a postgraduate level, presumably on the grounds that it saves time if people will publish in English anyway.
So it seems to me just about everybody learns how to write a decent essay the same way you did – right as they’re doing the work that requires those writing skills.
Or they take a lot of essay-heavy arts courses; I can't speak about other subjects, but taking history at university taught me way more about references, constructing an argument based on evidence, and methodically reading pieces of text than any science paper I took. It was really helpful once I hit honours and most of the work turned into seminar-style classes and reading papers; the people who'd only taken science classes were clearly confused by the read-and-discuss format, which had been present from the first year in history. It wasn't a substitute for learning to write in the sciences, and I remain grateful my PhD coursework involved a class that addressed that specifically, but it was a huge help.
No, but damn it… being able to manage the basics without committing linguistic GBH – is it really that hard to manage? I was faintly embarrassed traveling through Europe a couple of years back and finding most people just found it easier to conduct a fairly simple English conversation than try and make something out of my very basic German, and basically non-existent phrasebook Dutch, Danish and Swedish.
My main problem in Germany last year was picking up phrases quickly enough to apparently *sound* like I spoke some German when I ordered things, and then have to explain that I didn't actually when I got a rapid-fire response. In some ways just asking if they spoke English upfront produced less confusion, but I felt like I should give it a go while I was there.
I think the key thing about learning language early is actually the grammar. Vocab you can pick up as needed, but once you understand the structure of language - tenses, verbs, objects, subjects - you can parse sentences and figure out what the unfamiliar words in a sentence must mean. And so much of the meaning of a language is in how the words are strung together, rather than what the words are.
I didn't get much more than the basics of te reo in primary school in the 90s (colours, greetings, that sort of thing) but I took it for four years at secondary school and I've never been sorry I did; it made me feel so much more at home in my own country. Even when I don't understand something fully, and I was never fluent, I have the tools to work out what's being said with time and some prompting from a dictionary.
It did bemuse me how kids dropped away as we went through school - there were a lot of people taking Maori in third form, but by sixth I was the only Pakeha kid still sticking it out (despite the curious fact that our teacher that year was an Englishman who'd married a Maori woman and dedicated himself to becoming fluent.) It clearly wasn't seen as a priority once you got into the NCEA years, even though that was the point where we were starting to write essays and read texts and actually learn to use the language beyond the bones of it - I wonder if there was more exposure to it in primary school whether that would change.
What about Wossname in Auckland who beat his ex-girlfriend to death a couple of years ago? Same entitlement syndrome, result was still a death.
"Man kills ex (or on-off, or trying to be ex)-female partner" is such a common thing it's basically background noise in our society. I haven't really been engaging with this whole thing online because I don't know what to say, in the face of that - in the face of people then denying that this has anything to do with gender or a larger pattern. It's so damn tiring.
But what I was trying to point out, is that some people are incapable of achieving compleat personhood. These humans are sometimes called psychopaths, and at least one of them was in the nazi party. And I have reviewed my internet diagnoses of Hitler and conclude that he was an absolute monster.
I'm saying he was a human being - not a shining example of humanity, to put it mildly, but part of the human race, and any time you resort to "but he was just a psychopath" you lose the ability to understand how he built a widely-supported movement that allowed him to take control of a large and powerful country. Otherwise, the next one comes along, and we reassure ourselves that they aren't a total psychopath, they can't be that bad...
(Of course, I'm sure plenty of genuine psychopaths were attracted to and part of the Nazi party, but they hardly made up the whole of it - and that's rather the point.)
Do you disagree?
I think that 1) diagnosing people with mental illness over the internet (especially the dead type) is always a losing game and 2) from what I know of Hitler, he was many things (charismatic, obsessed, not a very good artist), but I’ve never heard anyone seriously proposing he had a specific mental disorder. And even if he did, that disorder wouldn’t have caused what he did.
Do you think every person in Rwanda who took part in the genocide there, as a perpetrator or abettor, was “not complete” as a human? They were actually hacking people to death with machetes, not just ordering deaths - and there were rather more than one of them. The nasty secret about humanity is that we don’t need mental illness to explain the awful things we do. In some circumstances, they come pretty naturally. That’s why it’s so important to remember how, and why – otherwise we stumble into it all over again. Genocide isn’t a twentieth-century invention. The twentieth century is just when we bothered to come up with a name for it.
Portraying the Nazis as anything other than fully human seems to be an attempt to absolve ourselves of the possibility of such evil, and that, to me, is far more dangerous than any multimillionaire owning a book that creeps people out.
The one WWII-related museum I visited in Germany - the exhibit associated with the rally grounds in Nuremberg - was designed to explain exactly how the Nazis had become popular and widely-supported in Germany over the course of the 1930s, and that had progressed into WWII and the Holocaust. It was thorough and interesting and pretty hard to deal with, but it never lost sight of the fact that ordinary people had enabled and accepted what the Nazis became.
In the process, they’re being diluted and turned into something fantastic (as in, a group of non-human fantasy creatures), by being turned into zombies, magicians, space aliens, etc.
I have been fascinated by the way that genre fiction over the last decade has come to the universal agreement that the Nazis were not just bad humans but literally demonic in some way, or at least trying to conjure some up. (C.f.: Hellboy, Charles Stross, Ben Aaronovitch...) It's almost medieval in the way it resorts to supernatural evil to explain human horror. And it's probably only possible, as you say, because most people who dealt with them as human beings doing evil to other human beings are dead, or very old. They're retreating into myth, in a weird way.
It’s like the people who wander around saying that the Waffen-SS were, you know and after all, excellent professional soldiers etc. Sure, fine, whatevers, weird military historiography’s not my bag etc, but it’s also pretty damn suspicious.
Absent other evidence I find this sort of attitude less suspicious and more evidence of contrarianism above all else - "The rest of you just aren't capable of putting your emotional responses aside and judging them on their merits!", etc. People, find something else to be more-discerning-than-thou fanboys about, kthx?