CAIRO - I have spent the past 30 years dealing with English as a university student and as a career journalist.
One of my favourite pastimes in my college days was to read Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz's novels in Arabic and compare them to their English translations. This hobby helped me come to grip with the niceties and intricacies of translating literary works.
Also, it gave me an insight into universal human values and tragedies.
So I was personally shocked upon hearing an Islamist lawmaker balking at the teaching of the English language in Egyptian schools, calling it a foreign conspiracy!
Mohamed el-Kurdi of the Salafist Nour Party told Parliament in a televised hearing last week that the teaching of English was aimed at shaping the minds of Egyptian children.
He was commenting on a co-operation protocol with the US to improve the skills of people teaching English as a second language in elementary schools.
El-Kurdi is a member of Parliament's Education Committee, whose task is to develop the nation's substandard education system. One key tool to this end is to open up to the world and its diverse cultures.
Al-Nour Party did well by dissociating itself from el-Kurdi's view, dismissing it as superficial and running counter to the rules of the Islamic Sharia.
Still, there is a deeper problem with the newly elected Parliament that presumably reflects the aspirations of post-revolutionary Egypt.
Since Parliament was unveiled on January 23, many lawmakers have acted as though partaking in a public-speaking competition.
Their speeches are often long, but very short on substance, if not hollow. Some MPs appear fond of playing the preacher and calling for fatwas that prohibit virtually everything.
It's no wonder that, more than a month since Parliament opened, its performance has been downright disappointing.