Wednesday 5 October 2016

The true meaning of exchange

When I was a language teacher I really believed in the exchange visit. Though not all students could or wanted to participate I’d argue that all students benefitted from some taking part. In another post I’ll explain this in more detail and show how all of my teaching related to the exchange idea.

The word itself is important: exchange. Swapping ideas and commodities. What is a default position or an everyday normality in one place might be considered by others as innovative and a great idea elsewhere. I’m currently reading a book set in primitive times. One tribe hunting just with spears sees another using bows and arrows and learns something.  In exchange the spear-only tribe are able to show the bow-and-arrow tribe some extra medicinal herbs. 

I’ve just come back from a visit to the mainland and I’m frustrated by not having the effective slider-mixer tap in my bathroom. Getting the right mixture of hot and cold involves getting your head wet as you fiddle with the taps. I also miss the double-hinged windows – so that you can leave window open safely whilst out and even when inside you can be assured that baby won’t be able to fall out of it.  Both of these items are becoming a little more common in the UK. We’ve seen and thought “What a good idea!” We are able to trade freely with our colleagues on the mainland. Travel is easy. Various EU initiatives around language-learning have also helped this.   

I used to teach a business-man German. Okay, so he worked for a Swiss firm and Switzerland’s not in the EU. However, it has a special relationship with the EU that we’ll never be allowed to have post-Brexit. He used to say that all UK rail workers should be sent to Switzerland for a couple of weeks to watch how the railways work  there. He reckoned they are so much cleaner and more punctual than ours. There may be all sorts of reasons why this is so but at least our workers should take a look and see if there is anything they can learn. 

Naturally we don’t need an EU for this sort of exchange of ideas to work. Goodness knows how my two primitive tribes negotiated but they obviously came to some sort to arrangement. But with easier travel and a stable exchange rate it’s all a lot easier. 

Why have we chosen isolation? Have we, actually? Thankfully actually fewer than 37% of the British people chose that. There is yet hope for true exchange.            

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