Check out this video directed by my Costa Rican partner Roy Prendas for WWF! When you participate in Habla Language Service’s Spanish immersion program in Costa Rica next summer, you’ll get the best of language, nature and culture! Save the dates:
Session 1: August 9-13, 2010
Session 2: August 16-20, 2010
Did you know that America is all one continent? Most cultures teach that there are 5 continents and America is all one. That is: North America, Central America and South America are one. Yes, we are all Americans. This video shows how the continent is divided into different cultural zones. California has its own culture! Hey! (Oh yeah, I should mention it’s in Spanish (from Spain – lisp and all!) Click here for video:
This article by Meina Kaleyah of Drexel University really caught my attention:
“I would like to blame geographic isolation for the fact that most U.S. citizens that are not of immigrant households do not speak any languages other than English. Fine, you can’t hone your German or your French, we get it – it’s all an ocean away. Regardless, just to the south of us Spanish, and not English is what is spoken. According to a report conducted by the Center for Applied Linguistics, Foreign Language Teaching: “What the United States Can Learn from Other Countries,” the U.S. lags in foreign language proficiency because linguistic education is introduced too late, and our teaching force is not properly equipped. These conclusions should not come as a surprise. We can all recollect the nightmare and confusion of foreign language classes, so it’s no wonder why few bother to pursue the languages in which they once held interest. So, what do we lose from avoiding learning a foreign language?
In most careers, fluency in another language is highly valued, not only for what such knowledge indicates about the employee but also for business ventures, creating a scenario where expanding into a global market becomes viable. A study published April 2006 in the “Journal of International Business Studies” concludes that introducing employees that speak another language into the workplace actually cuts transaction costs that involve international clients. Previously, if an employee was multilingual, they were utilized merely for the translation of bureaucratic documents (e.g. questionnaires). Language and the associated ethnic conventions were segregated from the skill itself. Language is now an integrated strategy within corporations. Commercial culture has shifted in its perception of multilingual people. Possessing knowledge of multiple languages is associated with many valued qualities, such as versatility, perceptivity and cooperation. In the pre-twenty-first century corporate milieu, multilingualism would brand an individual as an expatriate of another country, the child of an immigrant, or European – no outstanding traits would be attached.
Employment aside, knowing another tongue brings introspective and social context to the individual. Anyone who is a first or second generation immigrant in this country can attest to this fact: speaking and speaking well is tied to enculturation. A common phenomenon in bilingual households is a dual persona, one for each language and culture. There is no wrong in it; simply, characteristics within our own personalities are punctuated in different ways in different cultures via the style we communicate.
A study published in the “Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching” illustrates the integral nature of culture within foreign language education. Miwako Yanagisawa followed students learning Japanese as a second language at the Tokyo Christian University in Japan. The study focused on the socialization of Japanese culture that was imparted along with the language. Students in the class who communicated effectively in Japanese shared a couple of common attributes. First, they understood their social context as non-Japanese, using it to their advantage. They also incorporated values and norms of the Japanese within their exchanges.
Two fundamental processes of language socialization were revealed: “socialization through the use of language and socialization to use language.” Proper knowledge of a language carries more weight than the ability to string a sentence together. We are assimilated into the culture, we assume different identities – we learn how to connect with people that may have been socialized in a fundamentally different manner. Learning a foreign language makes us global citizens.
My parents firmly believe in this notion of “global citizen.” Although I grew up in an Iranian household where Farsi was spoken, my parents wasted no time plopping me in yet another foreign-language environment at the tender age of four. For two years, I attended L’École Internationale Française de Philadelphie in Bala Cynwyd. To this day I am not sure what fueled this decision (why didn’t they get me a Spanish-speaking nanny?), but it certainly changed the course of my life intellectually. Though my French lay dormant for many years after I stopped attending L’EIFP, my high school French literature class reawakened my inner-Francophile. Labé, Baudelaire, Appollinaire – all their words moved me to tears.
I find that American literature often leaves something to be desired when it comes to poetry. As a Francophile, French movies and literature are my bread and butter. “Au Revoir Les Enfants” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” are two choice films that should not be overlooked. Frankly, even if you cannot speak another language, cinema is a great medium to introduce yourself to any culture. Do not be embarrassed that you cannot watch a movie en V.O. (in its original form); a great movie translates in all languages. Even if you do not have the time to sit down and get through that pricey Rosetta Stone program collecting dust in your desk, the arts are a great medium to take in another culture.
A refuge for the tired and poor is not just some archaic inscription on a plaque within the walls of the Statue of Liberty. As a country of immigrants, we frequently encounter those from other countries, daily. At the very least, we should watch some foreign films. However, there is no substitute for fluency in another language from your own. It aids in our world perspective and our ability to communicate with a variety of people, a well as adding a little kick to our résumé. Simply, a foreign language facilitates growth; when you stop growing and changing, you’re dead.”