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The value of knowing another language

 

I wrote a guest post for another blog and thought that it was worthwhile adding to this blog:

In addition to having a useful skill for careere and having the cognitive benefits that come with learning a language,  knowing another language is fun and it’s an adventure. When you use another language, it’s like going to outer space; you are discovering a new world. Knowing another language gives you the tool to explore another culture on your own.  Other countries have not only beautiful monuments, colorful customs, holidays, music  and celebrations; they have their own history, their own government, their own literature.  We share our common humanity, and we have much in common, but other cultures have found different ways to deal with the issues of the human condition, and we have much to learn from one another.

One of the aspects of international travel that we don’t often think about is this: we are, each one of us, an ambassador for our country. We have the opportunity to explain our culture, to correct misconceptions, to combat stereotypes, to exchange ideas, to make connections and friends and to create good will. We can be much more effective in doing this if we can speak the language of the country we are visiting.

In the U.S., we live in our huge, great country. We are a continent, a world unto ourselves, sort of isolated from the rest of the world. Have you noticed that almost everything from abroad comes to us filtered in English? Unlike other countries, where subtitles are used, voices in foreign languages are dubbed in English.  Something is lost in the translation!

  When I lived abroad after college, I became aware that the U.S. is not the center of the world for people living in other countries. Of course, they follow news events, and especially music from the U.S. with great attention, but they have their own lives, their own worries, problems, their own culture, and their own opinions.  It was a revelation to me, and it can be applied to all people: others have their own thoughts, interests and priorities, and we must respect, value and appreciate the differences and similarities. It’s an important lesson of life.