Nine Good Reasons for Studying and Learning a Foreign Language
Studying and Learning Foreign Languages
I have studied and learned to different degrees of proficiency several foreign languages. After taking Latin, Spanish, German, and French in high school and college, I continued my foreign language study by learning Chinese Mandarin during military service. When I was almost 60, I also studied and learned the Thai language.
In high school, I enrolled in Latin and Spanish to fulfill a foreign language requirement for a college prep track of study. I took German and French as a requirement for doing planned future graduate research in the field of chemistry. During the Navy, I learned Chinese Mandarin only because the Navy determined that I had an aptitude for learning languages.
After reflecting on my lifetime of foreign language study, and particularly my past career in using Chinese Mandarin with the federal government, I have come up with nine good reasons for anyone to study and learn a foreign language.
Communication with Loved Ones and Friends
Many people learn how to speak and read a foreign language for communication with loved ones and friends. After marrying a Taiwanese and living in Taiwan in the 1970s, I quickly learned how to speak Taiwanese to facilitate communication with my wife, her relatives, and our neighbors. I have also used spoken and written Chinese Mandarin to keep in touch with friends from Taiwan and China.
Foreign Travel and Survival
If you travel to many countries, some knowledge of the spoken and written language of the countries you are visiting will make your trips easier, more exciting, and rewarding. You will be able to communicate better with natives and probably save money when shopping. By being able to ask where the toilet is and how to get to the subway stop, you will be able to survive in a strange locality.
Understanding a New Culture
Language and culture are inseparable. By acquiring knowledge of a country's culture, you will better understand a foreign country's customs, history, religions, food, and art.
Doing Foreign Business
When engaged in business, it is necessary to speak the same language as your partner. If more businessmen and women understood Chinese Mandarin and Japanese, it would be much easier for them to do business. Many of my English students in Taiwan in the 1970s were businessmen engaged in import-export trade. It was necessary for them to deal with American clients who could not speak Chinese Mandarin or Taiwanese.
Opportunities for Interesting Jobs
Many job opportunities await bilingual and multilingual persons. With my proficiency in Chinese Mandarin, I was able to find work as a translator with the federal government. Some of my colleagues even became interpreters. There are many opportunities for doing language work with the U.S. State Department, CIA, NSA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security. For the academic-oriented, you can become a primary or secondary school foreign language teacher with a Bachelor Degree. By earning a Masters or Ph.D., language majors will be able to teach at colleges or universities.
Improving Your Native Language
The study of foreign languages, especially Latin, has really helped improve my native English language skills. This is due to the fact that many English words have prefixes, suffixes, and roots derived from Latin. For example, not knowing the meaning of the word "translucent," a knowledge of Latin would tell me that the root word "luc" means light, and the prefix "trans" means across. Hence I could infer that translucent refers to light passing through something. Numerous words from French, German, and Spanish are also found in the English language.
Makes You More Broad-Minded
Compared to the multilingual Europeans, most Americans are rather narrow-minded in their views toward people from other countries. This is undoubted because the majority of Americans are monolingual and have never interacted with persons from other cultures. I have found that my study of foreign languages has made me more tolerant of foreigners and their different cultures.
An Aid for Doing Research
A knowledge of French, German, and Russian will be of great assistance for any Ph.D. candidate doing research in one of the sciences such as chemistry, physics, biology, or biochemistry. My limited knowledge of German is also proving helpful in my genealogy research as I examine old German census and military records.
The Chance to Become Bilingual or Multilingual
I would strongly recommend that if the environment is available, young children should have the chance to learn one or more foreign languages before the age of five. At that age, a child has internalized all phonetics and basic grammar patterns of a language for communication. In Thailand, there are stories about kids who at the age of six are able to speak fluently Thai, Chinese Mandarin, and English. If a child is bilingual or multilingual, it will open up so many opportunities in education.
If you haven't yet studied and learned a foreign language, it is never too late to begin. Your skills in a new language can be used for travel and survival, communication with foreign friends, and understanding different world cultures.
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© 2016 Paul Richard Kuehn