Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ancient Reasons to Study a Foreign Language

In war, intelligence of the situation becomes a precious commodity. When Sargon II was preparing for battle against Mannea around 716-714 B.C., he needed reliable reports. The problem was that there was a language barrier. Then as now, having people capable of understanding the language was a very desirable thing. That is why, Kubaba-ila'i was sent to Tikrish to gather information, since the king knew that "he was a master of the language" (ABL 342 18 = SAA 5:217 18). The Assyrians seemed to realize that having someone who actually knows the language is a desirable thing, and not just for spying. Judean scribes recorded the use that an Assyrian official made of language for propaganda purposes (2 Kings 18:17-37). Knowledge of another language can be a good thing.