As a languages student I value very highly the learning of languages but many people nowadays don’t agree. When I hear the phrase “But…everyone speaks English.” I want to scream! 4 out of 5 people do not speak English and only 7 per cent of the world’s population speaks English as a first language. The world WE’RE in may be full of people who speak English but learning languages open up a new world. Recently I was asked what I think the importance of languages is and I thought about it. I have made three point of the reasons that I, personally, think learning languages is essential and invaluable.
- Languages are a passport to another world.
Passports and planes can take you to anywhere in the world but can you really know a country without knowing the language? With a language you can get to know and get involved with the culture. You can meet people from that country and talk to anyone you may meet on the street. You can ask for directions and know what you’re ordering in a restaurant. You can go beneath the surface of the tourist aspect and discover the true secrets about a country and how it works.
- It’s a sign of respect and creates instant connections.
Even if someone speaks your language, to arrive in their country and assume they wish to speak it to you is slightly ignorant. This is one of the reasons that Anglophones are infamous for being so rude abroad, the majority of them don’t make any effort to speak anything other than English. Even attempting a few words when in a shop or asking for directions shows that you have had enough respect to at least try. I have found that speaking someone’s mother tongue to them creates instant friendships as well because they feel more comfortable around you when they can be themselves.
- A lot of things are “lost in translation”.
If you have ever read a translation in your native language that has been translated from another language and the looked at the original, you will know this. Some of the translations are very embarrassing! There are a lot of idiomatic phrases that cannot be translated because they only make sense in that language. Things like humour and play on words can also only be appreciated in the original language.
Source: British Council, Tuesday, 5 November, 2013, http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/magazine/life-around-world/importance-languages