Alain Bentolila

Language Against Barbarism Teaching Our Children to Live Together Publication date : November 9, 2016

Mastering language skills is crucial to a child’s academic and social future. Children who know how to speak, read and write not only know how to think for themselves, they also know how to think with others, to accept them, and to find their own place in society. Poor or inadequate language skills will make a child feeling linguistically powerless, a situation that can lead to failure, exclusion, and, possibly, violence and the rejection of others.
Good language acquisition — which also implies learning the basics about others and about difference — is determined early in childhood. The language level children finally acquire is the direct outcome of the nurturing they received during their first years. The author argues that it is therefore essential to pay close attention to the conditions of children’s early development, and to be both helpful and demanding.
This book, by an eminent French expert, examines the controversial issue of language and literacy: the place that speaking, reading and writing have (or should have) in education. The author evokes economic factors as the cause of social violence; but he also argues that violence results, at least partially, from an inability to order one’s thoughts and express them through language. The role of education is thus more crucial than ever.
The author’s stand is a militant one, and he exhorts all adults — parents, teachers, and society as a whole — to participate in the battle for a common language to be shared by all. This battle is none other, he argues, than a struggle against violence.

Alain Bentolila is the founder of the Observatoire National de la Lecture (a national organisation for the study of reading skills) and a professor of linguistics at the University of Paris-V. He is the author of, most notably, Tout sur l’école, published by Editions Odile Jacob in 2004.
A specialist in illiteracy in France, Bentolila was named by the French Minister of Education, Gilles de Robien, to draw up a report on the renovation of grammar studies in schools. His report, which aims to bring a more methodical approach to grammar education, was submitted to the government on 29 November 2006.