Alain Bentolila

We Are Not Bonobos: I Talk, Therefore I Am Publication date : March 31, 2021

Alain Bentolila is professor of linguistics at the Université Paris-Descartes and head of research. He is the author of many best-selling works on illiteracy and language-learning, including Tout sur l’école (Everything about School) and Le Verbe contre la barbarie (The Word against Barbarism), which received the Prix France Télévisions. President of the Centre international de formation et d’élaboration d’outils pédagogiques (CIFODEM) at the Université Paris Descartes, founder and president of the Controverses de Descartes, president of the scientific board of the Don Bosco Network, he is also the creator of the “La Machine à Lire” application.

“It was not the evolution of the human species that led to the creation of language; it was the creation of language that defined its evolution. A small child doesn’t learn language because he is growing; it is language that makes him grow.

To speak exactly, with the firm intention of convincing, but without intending to manipulate; to understand exactly with tolerance, but with the will not be intimidated; to read exactly, with as much freedom to interpret the words of another as a concern with respecting his spiritual testament; to write exactly, with as much boldness as effort made to be understood: this is what sets our species apart, a species so unique and so fragile, this is what raises it up.

What is the use of fighting to bequeath a “livable” planet to those who come after us if their minds, deprived of collective memory, of mastered language, or of the desire to understand, are condemned to wander in the glacial silence of a cultural and spiritual desert? What is living if we eradicate the past and turn the future into a creed? What is living if we refuse to transmit to our children the universal values that bind us together?” (A. B.)