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There are different languages that are spoken by different individuals across the globe. There are those languages that are spoken in more than one region due to the interaction that had occurred during the colonial periods. The colonial powers introduced their languages to the colonized states.
The slave trade also saw various language groups moving to some common country like the United States, Jamaica and many others. As such, there are languages like Spanish being spoken in some parts of the United States and countries of South and Central America (Centeno, Obler & Anderson, 1). English is popular in most parts of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa whereas French is spoken in some countries in West Africa.
A foreign language can be regarded as a language that is exotic to a particular country and traces its origin to a different country. For instance, French can be regarded as a foreign language to a Scottish living in his country. The concept can also be understood differently. An Irish speaker who obtains citizenship in another country like Norway may consider the Norwegian language as a foreign language. On the other hand, an individual may have been reared in a society that has more than one language.
As the child grows, he happens to interact with individuals from these language groups and learns the languages. This individual will not consider any of the languages as foreign regardless of the proportion of the individuals that speak the language. In this context, therefore, a foreign language may mean the language that an individual had not learned while he or she was young. It is not one’s native mother tongue and neither did the individual learn the language at early age.
Most of the learning institutions all over the world have included the learning of a second language in their curriculum. Many students in the universities currently register for foreign languages not for literature purposes. They want to improve their worth in the job market and learn other people’s culture. ‘More often, they want to communicate.
They want to learn about another culture. They want to travel. They want skills that will make them attractive job candidates in the business world’ (McDonough, 293). Some of the institutions use the foreign language as the official learning language. The learners are to be introduced to the language at the earliest stage of their education. Other minor foreign languages are also included at later stages of their education.
The acquisition or learning a foreign language is advantageous to the individual especially in a multi-lingual environment. Foreign language will enable one to learn the ways of life of the foreigners (Field, 4). A bilingual or multilingual person is able to interact freely with the foreigners due to lack of language barrier.
Speaking an additional foreign language adds value to one’s career ability as he can then be engaged with the foreigners. This interaction will also ensure peaceful coexistence and unity in a multicultural society. However, the acquisition of foreign language may lead to the erosion of the culture of some community and loss of their cultural identity.
Thesis statement: Speaking foreign languages has a number of advantages and disadvantages to the speakers and their native country. The use of foreign languages in a given country and by a given individual can be of some help only to the extent that the language is not used to suppress the native languages of the country.
Benefits of the learning foreign languages
Speaking languages different from the native language has a number of advantages. The knowledge of a language that is different from one’s native language improves the individual’s ability to interact with the others from the foreign language. In a society that has many language groups, the ability to speak more than one language will enable some professional to deliver quality services to the clients as their will be a good communication of the client’s needs.
A medical practitioner that is to be posted to some rural healthcare centre will be better placed if he could speak the language of the natives of the region. The employment opportunities that require movement and operations among different language groups give high preference to those professionals who can speak many languages.
The professionals in sales and marketing interact with different groups of people and the knowledge of different languages will help them win the customers. A customer will be more attentive if the sales agent can approach them in the native language.
The use of a foreign language can be advantageous to a country as it ensures national unity in a given country. In a country that has several ethnic communities with different native languages, there can be rivalry among the native language groups and no single native language may be adopted as the national language. The social and political factors will also impede standardization of a given language (Stolt, 3).
In such cases, a foreign language can be adopted as the neutral official language to be spoken by all the ethnic communities in a given region. The language may be regarded as the official and national language in the country. The language would be adopted as the learning language in the institutions within that country. It would also be used during all the national functions as well as in providing various official publications.
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The speaking of one common language by different ethnic communities will be unifying factor that will help in ensuring that peace prevails in the country. Ethnic or racial discrimination would be minimized in such multicultural environment with a common language. Essentially, the development of languages is crucial for the various aspects of national development.
The knowledge of different languages also boosts an individual’s thinking and reasoning ability. The ability to interact freely with different language groups enables one to have different perspectives on some concept from which he is able to make a valuable observation.
The examination of a given concept in different language contexts gives more light on the concept and meaning could be derived from some analysis. Various educators at higher learning institutions are better placed if they can speak some international language when discussing the emerging scientific principles at an international level (Lopourova & Korecki, 125).
Various literatures that are now available for use in areas like philosophy, religion, history, or psychology were obtained from materials that were written by scholars from different language groups. The ability to understand these languages enabled the collection and production of a more concrete material that evaluates and summarizes all these ancient materials. It is then possible to identify the concepts that were controversial in the olden text and develop a more harmonious material.
The knowledge of foreign language also improves the learning ability of an individual. In an institution of higher learning where some foreign language is used, the knowledge of such a language will improve the student’s learning ability as opposed to the scenario where the student first takes a course in the language.
A student who already speaks a foreign language is likely to learn and adopt the new technologies faster since such ideas do not stem from a single language group (eLearning YellowPages, para.8). The knowledge of Chinese as a foreign language will enable one to learn the technologies that are developed in Chinese since the country rarely speak foreign languages.
The foreign languages do not only improve on an individual’s professional value. They positively influence the individual’s ability to adapt to new cultures (Jeremiah, 5; Geisler, para.9). The knowledge of the languages will imply the knowledge of the cultures and thus the individual will be flexible and able to adopt any of the culture.
The individual can easily socialize and participate in the leisure activities like sports on the local and global scenes (Blaz, 40). This improves an individual’s position in the society. He will appear to be more civilized thereby adding value on his human dignity. It will enable one to evaluate how he is viewed by the others in the society and the value that he gives to the others (Blaz, 40).
Globalization is rapidly increasing in all aspects of the economy. The use of foreign languages is also essential in the operations of a multinational company. In as much as the foreign languages will increase the value of an employee, an organization that is to operate in such environment will benefit more if the employees are multilingual.
The needs of their clients will be easily identified and satisfied. The management of the organization will have a good understanding of the different cultures that is very essential in formulating the strategies to achieve its objectives. The knowledge of foreign languages, thus, promotes international business.
The use of foreign languages also promotes international cooperation. The countries that have a common official language often relate with each other better than the others that have no common language. Various international organizations like the European Union, Commonwealth, the United Nations, and even the African Union take the advantage of the English language that is spoken in most of the member countries.
Different policies can be developed on an international basis that are of importance to the developments in the member states. An example is the International Criminal Court that deals with crimes against humanity committed in the countries that operate under the statutes.
Challenges posed by the foreign languages
The use of foreign languages can also be hazardous in some instances. The culture of a community refers to their common values, beliefs and practices that govern their overall perception of life. It is described as ‘the membership in a discourse community that shares a common social space and history, and a common system of standards for perceiving, believing evaluating, and acting’ (Nunan & Choi, 3). Language is one component and a good way of preserving the culture of a given group.
The acquisition of foreign languages in a given country may lead to the erosion of the native cultures of these individuals, as the young generation would wish to imitate the way of life that is associated with the new (modern) language. This is a poor use of the foreign languages. The young generations often consider their native language to be too old and remote to be used in the “civilized” world. Some languages become extinct in some parts of the world due to the use of more popular languages (Jeremiah, 2).
Rather than being flexible and able to accommodate both the cultures, they would be skewed towards the foreign culture. Unfortunately, these groups do not always practice the foreign culture to its fullness and often end up with uncontrolled irresponsible behaviors that are found in none of the two cultures.
While one may be interested in learning foreign languages, he might be discouraged by certain difficulties. The process of learning a foreign language is costly and time consuming especially at the latter stages of learning. Some of the foreign languages are highly complex with an extended grammar that may not be friendly to the learner.
The different languages have different structures and one language structure may not be transferred directly to the other language. This makes the learning a different cumbersome process that may take time before completion. There may also be difficulties in the translation of concepts from one language to the other leading to controversies.
Policies governing the learning of foreign language
There have been legislations by various governments concerning the learning foreign languages. Some of the governments have considered it a requirement for the foreign languages to be taught in the learning institutions whereas others have considered the learning as optional.
However, most of the individuals who opt to learn the foreign languages are only interested in the basics. For instance, in the UK, it has been observed that the number of students that register for foreign languages at the university level have been reducing considerably despite the need for such languages (Field, 40)
It is thus worth noting that the use of foreign languages can be of benefit to an individual and his country as long as the foreign language is not allowed to dominate the region and ride over the native language. The parents of young children attending schools adopting foreign languages for learning need to train the children on the native language and provide insight the importance that the language has in upholding their cultural identity.
The foreign languages should be included in the school curriculum so that the challenges of learning at later stages are overcome. The governments should enact legislations that point on the need to incorporate foreign languages in the learning institutions. There should also be legislations that preserve the cultures of the different language groups.
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