An interesting survey crossed my desk recently – it was for a friend’s class assignment, and the wording of several questions intrigued me. Part of it had to do with one’s consideration of language needs for deaf people versus non-English-speaking people. While I believe that the questions in that particular survey were only the jumping off point for a variety of discussions, it did make me think.
How important do we treat other languages in this country? While I think that it is important for people to learn English, I also know that learning other languages helps brain activity as well as makes it easier to get along in a global culture. We cannot be so self-centered as to require the rest of the world to speak our language, and yet it is not a requirement in many schools that a second language is learned.
I remember having to take two years of a secondary language in high school (only two, whereas in other countries many children learn a second and third language if not more, to conversational levels, from a younger age) but it may have only been the honors program. In college I chose to take a different language for my major’s language requirement, but again, the major only required two semesters (I took four). So now I am not-quite-conversationally fluent in Spanish and German. I can read in both languages but I cannot easily hold conversation in either – it takes me too long to translate in my head. I’d like to count American Sign Language as a fourth one, but it’s been so long since learning it that I only remember a very few phrases and the alphabet. As a singer, I am familiar with pronunciation rules for a dozen other languages and can perform the music even though I cannot translate all the words without assistance.
Perhaps I will add getting conversationally fluent in at least one other language to my bucket list. Spanish and German are well within my reach, and ASL is not out of the question. Who’s with me?