Americans have it pretty good, our economy is the biggest in the world, we rarely want for basic amenities, and in general life is good. However, we do have some problems and one of them is the majority of us don’t speak other languages. It seems odd that a nation built on immigration has so few dual-language speakers, but start thinking it over and it begins to make sense.
A nation with so many different backgrounds and different languages simply doesn’t work as well. After all the people need some way to communicate with each other and what better way then the language the “natives” speak. There was once a time when most Americans spoke several different languages, but as time passed so did it seemed the need to learn. Families assimilated into American culture and the knowledge was lost.
Nowadays, American is becoming more and more isolated, we know about the outside would but two-thirds of the population doesn’t even carry a passport. 200 million people who have never or have no intention of leaving the country. It is not uncommon to meet people who have never been outside the US and thanks in part to British colonialism most of the rest of the world speaks English. When Americans do leave for foreign lands its rare we have to try their hand at other languages, finding someone who speaks English isn’t very hard.
Its becoming clearer that much like the immigrants living in America, the world too is settling on English as a common language. English is the most widely spoken language and it continues to grow, as its fast becoming the language of business. So why should Americans bother learning any other language at all? The answer is much more basic than one might think.
The Demographics Are A Changin’
One look at the totals from the election point to one undeniable fact the demographics of the United States are changing. For several decades the United States’ demographics have moved away from a largely white European group to a much more cultural and ethnic mix. The simple fact is that in the US there isn’t just one widely spoken language anymore, there are two. According to the 2010 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by almost 37 million people aged five or older. For Math buffs that’s 12.3% of the population and that number will continue to increase. Now Super Bowl commercials are done in Spanish, the simple fact is times are changing and those who have adapted properly are the ones who will succeed.
This isn’t to say that recent immigrants shouldn’t try to learn the “native” language as well, the blending of cultures is what makes America the great place that it is. However, forcing people to give up their culture isn’t much of a solution and in fact only serves to provoke. Needless to say, learning a second language is necessary for both sides, to help add just another spice in the melting pot that is the United States of America.
A Language a Day
Learning a new language is a very rewarding experience, both mentally and physically. A recent study has shown that learning a new language can keep Alzheimer’s at bay. Why this is so, is the simple task of keeping the mind active. Once we get to certain age we tend to curb our learning and knowledge base. What makes learning a language a great way to do this is just how much you’ll be keeping your mind engaged. Learning a new language adds thousands of words to your vocabulary and you’ll essentially continue learning something new every day.
Keeping good mentally and physically is key to living a full long life, and until we conquer time (not looking like anytime soon) it might be best to get the most out of our time. Beyond preventing a horrific mental disease, you’ll also live a much fuller happier life and seeing as how many diseases are related to stress it seems to be an obvious connection that adding another language to your arsenal can keep your motor running.
Your Missing Out
Being able to tell people what you want or need and having them understand you is all well and good, but having a real meaningful conversation is much different. As Americans we tend to forget that even though many people speak English only a few of them are what would be considered fluent speakers. They may pick up one in three words you speak to them, so good luck getting more than a few words back. Going to a foreign land and being able to order food or drink will never be a problem but when you go don’t you want to mingle with the crowds?
Being able to understand what is being said is a nice tool to carry with you, and its never fun to stand around while everyone else is having a conversation. It also comes in handy in not being taken advantage of, or at the very least not being made a fool of. In the end this won’t happen much but it is quite fun to snoop in on conversation when people assume you don’t understand.
The last piece is pretty simple and obvious but it needs to be said because, well, life is for the living, but learning a language is fun. Sure there will be times when you want to pull your hair out and you’ll undoubtedly hit several moments where you feel you’ll never understand but eventually it comes. Just remember it took several years to be able to speak the native language perfectly so learning a new one isn’t going to happen overnight. Like all things that are worth-while it takes hard work and dedication.
Besides that its a great way to meet many new people from all walks of life. Each one has a different and amazing story to tell and your life will all the better for having listened. You’ll meet some whom you’ll detest and others whom you’ll love, but in the end you’ll be better off for simply knowing them. And isn’t it what it’s all about?