The Ebony Quill

Thoughts, reflections, and whimsies as I experience life

The Importance of Learning another Language

I was raised speaking three languages:  Hindi, Gujarati, and English.  After moving to the United States at the age of five, my Hindi has become pretty weak (I have to think at length before I speak and my vocabulary is limited to what I see in Bollywood movies), my Gujarati is conversational, and, of course, English has become my primary language.

Beginning in elementary school, I learned Spanish and I continued to learn it in high school through advanced classes.  Currently, I am minoring in Spanish in college.  Personally, I enjoy learning a different language and view it as an open door that allows me to communicate with another part of the world.

However, the majority of children in the United States are not open to learning a new language and are not encouraged to pursue it to fluency.  High schools that require only two years of basic classes in a foreign language are fooling themselves if they believe it is sufficient.  Even after kids take four years of foreign language classes, most hardly pass examinations (that is, if they take IB or AP classes which have outside examinations).  I believe this can be attributed to a combination of several factors:  cultural ignorance and society’s indifference concerning learning languages, lack of student motivation, and, in some cases, substandard teaching.  Children around the world grow up learning two to three languages in addition to English.  They are much better equipped and well-prepared to meet the demands of interconnected and interdependent nations as well as the global economy.   They also understand the value of diversity, culture, and the differences that make us unique.

So, if you’re a student, consider pursuing a second (or a third) language.  If you’re a parent, encourage your kids to learn another language and cultivate open-mindedness and an appreciation for cultural diversity.

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8 thoughts on “The Importance of Learning another Language

  1. Ebony: Your post is very timely. I agree that the sooner students learn the importance of culture diversity the better opportunities they will be able to embrace in society. There is certainly value in studying and learning languages outside of one’s native culture.

    FG

  2. When I was growing up, taking a foreign language was not optional. I do agree with Quill on foreign languages broadening our horizons and giving us that open channel for interaction n with diverse cultural groups. With the global divide being upon us this is essential and should now be mandatory y from grade school.

    GS

  3. Thank you for your post. I think that for many years, having another language was considered a great skill or bonus, and often the deciding factor in hiring for many jobs. At this point, that is shifting from desirable to essential. I believe that another language will be increasingly important in the next decade for many positions. The world gets a little smaller each second with the technology we can access, and is really changing how people work.

    • I absolutely agree. Speaking from a business major’s perspective, it’s necessary to be able to speak at least one of the major languages for business–Spanish, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Hindi, etc.–in order to be competitive for a good job.

  4. I’ve always wanted to learn a second language but for some reason it just doesn’t seem to stick. I’ve had a go at French, which I started doing in uni but going from high school level to university level knocked me back and I changed to film studies.

    I then pursued German on the side as I had a friend who could speak it well and she said she would help me. But again I just couldn’t seem to grasp it. I am still determined to have a go at becoming at least bilingual. It’s one of my major goals in life.

    Any tips?

    Also, thank you for the like on my blog post 🙂

    • It’s really interesting how learning a language is different for everyone. I’d definitely recommend immersing yourself in the language of your study (this is something I have to work on, too). This means to not only learn through the textbook/internet software, but by watching soap operas or news channels in your chosen language or reading news articles online. And, once you’ve reached an intermediate level of proficiency and if you feel comfortable doing so, I’d recommend visiting a country that speaks the language you’re studying. This will force you to communicate in the language and will help your fluency tremendously! Good luck!

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