Last Saturday seemed endless as time crept by. As I organized my books and documents in order, a piece of paper with the heading signed and sealed by the translation office captured my interest. It was the Amharic rendition of an English written report which was a necessary element to an appeal made to court a while back.

The translation from the office that was recommended to me by the legal office that had been following up on my case was nothing other than one of the most baffling experiences I have had in my life. I was lucky indeed as I had managed to take a look at the translation amidst the rush to take the case to court.

It proved to me that not only would computers never take the place of human translators, as the spurious document illustrates but also signified to what degree a new awkward level our learning atrophy is warped.  Lack of emphasis on the study of the English language and the failure to appreciate and acknowledge it as the reason we go to school is now progressively exacerbated by the dependence on computers.

Engulfing thoughts kicked in from my childhood. My older sister and four of her friends from our neighbourhood had to quit school for not excelling at the sixth-grade national exam after two attempts. I was fortunate as my time coincided with a transfer of a new teacher of English to the school. It was as though only English mattered in our lives as we moved seats manifesting how articulate we were sitting from A to Z, days from Monday to Sunday, months from January to December, embarking on "The Quick Brown Fox… " as we wondered why she went so over the line.

The intensity of her emotional or personal investment paid off as flicking a switch, surly but slowly to many of us. We called her Teacher Etaferahu and it took us a little effort to understand what she and English meant in our life, as I remember that with tears today.

The subsequent prevailing mindset about language study was less of producing white-collar job-oriented citizens. Instead produce fit students for grade seven, where the instructional medium changed.

Instead in retrospect, I can imagine how much more fun it could have been if we had more Teacher Etaferahus right from grade one. No doubt that could have reduced unnecessary and repetitive academic burdens that emanated from shifting the instructional medium that would have had a significantly positive bearing on our performance in broader academic areas.

It is reported that Latin, the language of the Romans was a second language to cultivated Englishmen for over four centuries, from 1400–1800, and it was then a supreme insult to call someone a “Latin less dolt.” According to Trevelyan, grammar school boys were allowed to speak nothing but Latin even out of school and a spy aptly named Lupus was sometimes paid to report whether they used English words while playing. If they did, they were flogged.

At this age, flogging is a meaningless back-and-forth without a presence in the classroom or at the office just like the translation officer who made a mistake that could have landed him in jail.

David Crystal argued in his book titled English as a Global Language, everyone on Earth will soon speak English as more people are getting involved in the global market of goods, jobs and ideas.

Disciplines of spelling, grammar syntax and orthography build learning muscles that make the struggle of creativity and self-expression bearable. The spillover virtues apply to other academic subjects taught in English.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 18,2023 [ VOL 23 , NO 1190]

Tadesse Tsegaye (, a polyglot with experience in multicultural-cum-institutional settings in resources management.

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