I haven’t read anything by him in a while now, but I though I’d give you a brief idea of what I like about this writer who, through his books and essays, made me see life differently and think outside the box.
Amin Maalouf is a Labanese author, sociologist and journalist born in 1949 in Beyrouth, who fled his country in 1975 to go to France and escape the war. Since then, he has written a wide range of books, from fiction to non-fiction and essays, and the topic found in a large part of his work is identity, as well as the differences between what we would traditionally call the Western and the Arab civilisations. I would personally describe him as a sort of “bridge builder” between these two worlds, a person who raises awareness about the current issues mankind is facing but who also believes in its future. His most famous book is In the Name of Identity and I would recommend it to any person willing to understand the gaps between modern civilisations.
The purpose of this post is not to draw a portrait of this author, though, but rather speak about a concept he put forward a couple of years ago and which hasn’t really been taken seriously enough in my opinion.
In 2007, Amin Maalouf was appointed by the European Commission to advise on the role of multiculturalisme within Europe. Through the research he and his team performed, he developped a new concept which he named “Personal Adoptive Language” (PAL).
A Personal Adoptive Language can be defined as the second language a citizen would learn because he has particular affinities with it (culture, religion…). The learning process of this language should be intense enough so the learner reaches a very high level of fluency, and this language should be different from their language of international communication (in most cases English).
In other words, a German speaker would choose Croatian as a PAL and English would come in the third place as there is a high chance it would be the language of international communication of this person.
This mindset is incredible and also vital. Let me explain myself. First, it would encourage people to speak at least 3 languages fluently (or very fluently), thus broadening their minds and giving them a better understanding of cultural differences and how to overcome these barriers. Secondly, it is probably one of the only ways to avoid that some languages and dialects progressively disappear, since little by little, all these languages would be spoken by a portion of the population of each country.
Two years ago, I had the chance to attend a conference in Brussels during which Amin Maalouf explained the concept of Personal Adoptive Language in detail – he even signed one of my books :-). For some reason, his speech really appealed to me and I promised myself that I would work hard on my Arabic so it progressively becomes my PAL, English being my language of international communication. So far, I still feel like my Arabic comes in third place but I haven’t given up – I know one day this will happen!
If you wish to read Amin Maalouf’s full report about Personal Adoptive Language, click here!
Bye for now,