By Cathy Sun.
In our increasingly globalised community, learning a foreign language is now more important than ever. As mobility and communications bring the world closer together, the need for global citizens to be competent in other languages is more urgent. Learning a foreign language increases global understanding, employment potential, develops life skills, and strengthens relations with all around us.
By learning a foreign language, we are able to step inside the mind and context of another culture. In a world where nations and peoples are increasingly dependent upon on one another for goods and services, to solve political disputes and to enforce international law, understanding other cultures is crucial. Without intercultural sensitivity, there exists a greater barrier to cooperation, negotiation and compromise, which can lead to mistrust and misunderstanding. By grasping a foreign language well, we can see and show others a better insider’s view into that foreign culture, which give us insights into other perspectives on international situations and current events. A person competent in foreign languages can bridge the gap between cultures, while contributing to international diplomacy and world peace and security.
Learning a foreign language also increases employment potential. For businesses to compete in a global economy, they must learn to interact effectively with other cultures. Companies need employees who can communicate competently in different locales, and multilingual employees can communicate with more people of different cultures. Government agencies, the travel industry, communications, education, international law, economics, public policy, advertising, scientific research, and a broad range of sectors all have needs for people with foreign language skills.
The study of foreign languages leads to the acquisition of some important life skills. Because language learners learn to accept unfamiliar cultural ideas, they become better equipped to adapt in a fast-changing environment and novel situations. The encounter with cultures different from our own fosters tolerance for other lifestyles and customs, and improves our ability to understand and communicate with people.
Knowing another language and culture strengthens our relations with all around us. Contact with other cultures gives us the opportunity to step outside our familiar scope of existence and view our culture’s traditions, norms and value system through the eyes of different people. Intercultural experiences heighten our self-awareness, and allow us to form lifelong friendships. Knowing other languages increases the number of people around the world with whom we can communicate. Our ability to speak other languages and our interest in other cultures can connect us deeply with a lot more people in our global community.