By Delaney Staples, Asst. Section Editor
The United States is a country filled with diversity. Its people come from all over the globe, carrying their cultures and languages with them. About one in four children hasat least one parent born outside the U. S., according to Kaiser Family Foundation.
Yet, the value we put on learning about other cultures and most importantly, other languages, is very little.
When it comes to language learning, our education system is a mockery to our nation, which is supposed to stand for diversity and unity. We cannot be diverse or united if we don’t place value on learning the languages and the cultures that exist everywhere around us. The world does not revolve around America.. Magnet students are required to take three years of language, and let’s be real — most students BS it. To most of them, language seems too difficult and fluency unattainable. Some believe that it just doesn’t matter.
But what those students don’t understand is that language is freedom, and it is the key to understanding people.
The way a language is formatted, its grammar rules, its idioms and the thought process behind it all can tell someone a lot about a culture. For example, a Turkish idiom is “alın yazısı” which, in English, translates to “what is written on your forehead.”
To a majority of English-speakers, this doesn’t make very much sense, but this is a very important phrase. The idiom is similar to how we say someone’s fate being “written in the stars”.
The belief that fate is predetermined is widespread in Turkey and is an important aspect in its culture, but this belief is not taught in geography class. A lot of the time, language is the only key to understanding. Psychology, history and other classes commonly taught in schools can’t teach you about people like a language can.
Languages are dying. In 2007, there were 7,000 languages in the world. Today, there are less than 6,500. Entire cultures, entire histories, have been lost.
It is very important that the world doesn’t become monolingual. If we do, so much culture, history, and diversity will be lost and these are things that are nearly impossible to get back. To keep languages alive, to prevent the catastrophe of losing connections to entire civilizations, people need to speak them, and we need to learn them.
Despite what most Americans believe, learning a language isn’t the most difficult thing to do. It can be learned just like any subject in school; it only requires us to apply ourselves.
However, language learning is scientifically proven to be easier the younger a person is. That is why other countries start their kids off learning a second language almost right away. English is one of the most-taught languages, and kids start learning it from the time of elementary school; however, in America kids don’t start learning second languages until middle school or high school.
Throughout the world, many people are bilingual or polylingual. According to the European Commission 56 percent of Europeans can hold a conversation in a second language, compared to 20 percent of the U. S. population according to the American Community Survey.
This alone shows how much America lacks in foreign education, and frankly, it could be a contributing factor as to why other countries aren’t fond of us. They bother to learn our language, but we don’t bother to learn theirs.
Aside from language being a way to communicate both words and culture, language also looks very good to colleges and jobs. If a person can speak another language, they already have a higher chance at getting accepted whether it be for a college, by an organization or for work.
Language learning also leads to different and improved mindsets. It is scientifically proven that becoming fluent in another language, or at the very least learning the basics, can open your mind to new ways of thinking.
Some languages, Mandarin Chinese for instance, don’t have an alphabet but a host of characters. The characters are like symbols and represent whole words, not only sounds like the English or Latin alphabet.
Thus, people who speak Chinese have to think a different way when they are writing it. They have to memorize the strokes used to write the characters, forcing them to develop a sharper memory and more detailed observations. One or two wrong strokes can make the character illegible or mean something entirely different.
Mandarin Chinese is actually one of the languages taught at our school, and it is a very important language to learn due to China being one of the world powers. It is also one of the top five languages spoken around the world and used in business, alongside English and Russian.
“People think Chinese is really hard, but it only is if you believe that,” senior David Dunham said.
Sadly, people don’t have to fully comprehend a language to pass the class. At our school, we have the opportunities to learn Spanish, Chinese and French from people who are either native-speakers who came to America to teach or who have lived in those countries. This is a very valuable opportunity because not only can you learn the language from a textbook and classwork, but from a person who is living and breathing right in front of you and has experienced the different lifestyle and culture of another country.
Language is freedom because language brings people together. It can open new ways of thinking, unlock understanding, allow a person to meet new people, get into colleges, get jobs and more. There are many benefits to language learning, and it’s sad how little we Americans seem to value it.
By Delaney Staples, Asst. Section Editor