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Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Language is the biggest connection you can make with another person. You speak to so many people every day. And what do you all commonly share? Language.
I have been learning languages for about ten years, picking up phrases, listening to songs, collecting books and watching videos online. I have had a long journey and still much to continue, but I have learned a lot throughout the years.
First, personality is not the main point when connecting with another person. It is the communication between that person, no matter what language happens to be spoken. But most people are too afraid to speak to others who do not speak their own language. That is why the language barrier is such a big dilemma in our world currently. That is why people, including me, are trying to break that barrier, that wall.
To paint this into a picture, each country in our world is surrounded by its own bubble. All 195 countries. And each of those bubbles restricts the country’s language and culture inside. Most people are afraid to pop those bubbles, letting everything hidden inside become free.
Especially here in the United States, Loraine Obler, a professor of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences notes that in the United States, “We mostly learn one language as we’re growing up and that language gets to be so good that it interferes with our learning of other languages.”
Compared to the U.S., Europe shows that over 65% of the continent can speak at least one other language with their native language while the United States has 20%. Vanessa Monell, a near and dear old Spanish teacher of mine said herself that the United States should be making their children bilingual instead of monolingual. Children will learn a language easier at three or four years old instead of starting to learn a foreign language in middle school. That is why we need to start as soon as we can, even if we are college students.
Arne Duncan, a Secretary of Education also said that “Americans have relied on other countries to speak our language.” How true is that? If we see someone in the United States speaking a foreign language, does anyone admit that they think to themselves, ‘Wow, learn to speak our language.’ or ‘You are in America, learn some English?’But imagine yourself, if you were to walk the streets of Denmark, for example, speaking in English, the language you learned and have spoken your whole life. Will the people in Denmark think the same about you? Thinking to themselves, ‘Can they not speak Danish?’ or ‘You are in Denmark, start speaking our language?’ English is not the dominant language in the world.
News flash- it is Mandarin. So do not expect everyone to be speaking it. There is not one world language that is universal for all of us. People are going to speak in the language that they learned at home. The language they knew all their life, spoke all their life. No matter where in the world they may happen to be.
So you all may be thinking, then why learn a new language? If people are just going to speak in the language they are comfortable with anyway, then what’s the point? You just said so yourself.
That is where you are wrong. Why not take on a new language? Even multiple languages. You yourself can help crumble the barrier that has been a crisis for so many years. Do you know the smile that can show on someone’s face if you speak to them in their language?
A few years ago at the local bakery where I worked, a father and son came in. The son was translating for the father but I could not completely make out what they were saying from the masks. The father apologized to me that his English was not good so I decided to ask him what language he spoke since languages are my thing. He replied to me “Español!” and asked me if I knew any Spanish along with other languages. I told him a little about my journey and spoke some Spanish to him. It was a wholesome conversation that made my day, and I hope it made his day that there was someone willing to speak his native language so he got the same experience as other customers.
Let us talk about the reward of it all. Even if you learn one new word in German, even something so simple as ‘guten abend’ or ‘hallo’, you become proud of yourself. If you continue to attain those small rewards over and over again, in the future you could find yourself in Germany, walking up to someone, greeting them with, ‘Hallo, guten abend. Wie geht es dir?’. Then from there, you can have a full conversation with that individual, a task you may have thought was impossible before.
You can communicate with more people than you thought may have been possible. Why be secluded to just one nation? Broaden your horizons, and you can converse with people abroad. You will have more traveling opportunities and job opportunities. If you apply for a job being bilingual, chances are they will choose the person who is trilingual over you.
This all being said, will you commit to learning a language for the sake of breaking the language barrier? Will you start having a greater appreciation for your language classes now, if you have not already? I will. I will dedicate my life goal to it.
Even if you are scared to start, the point is that people around the world should know that you are trying, willing and speaking their language. And that beaming smile will show on their faces, proud that their language is getting recognition and being learned and appreciated by others. So, speaking your native language is pretty great to begin with. But learning and speaking a new language is truly priceless.
So, I am going to keep continuing on my journey. Are you going to start yours?