Mary Hawthorne on the value of translation, with insight from Lydia Davis, Arthur Goldhammer, and David Bellos: http://nyr.kr/P8v5gz
“You ask why learning a foreign language is critical to our educational system.
"Where to begin? Maybe with the Romans, who insisted on teaching Greek to all their highborn citizens. Or with the Russian Empire, which taught its élite to speak French. Or the French, who until very recently made everyone learn Latin. Mastery of a foreign language has been a required skill in every Western civilization since time immemorial. Columbus, Descartes, Newton, Euler—find me an important Western thinker in any field, and you’ll find someone who spoke and wrote in at least two languages. Why should we think of abandoning the fountainhead of Western culture? The real impact of this long tradition is, however, not in the field of business or diplomacy or mathematics or exploration; it is because mastery of a foreign language is a prerequisite for understanding how to use your own. That’s why we teach it.”