Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951), an Austrian philosopher and professor once said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” For someone who wants to explore the world in its entirety, it is foolish, then, to limit himself by knowing but one language.
Sometimes, English is considered to be a language that most people in the world can speak, but experts say that “long gone is the idea, first suggested in the 19th century, that the entire world will one day speak English as a ‘world language’” (Lovgren).
Learning a new language can be a daunting task. For many who believe they are not quick at picking up concepts and remembering vocabulary, it may be difficult to learn a new language, especially if they are adults. Languages such as Italian, Greek, Latin and Sanskrit are often considered difficult languages and have been under study for many years. One can present himself with a challenge of learning one of these – or any other of the – languages of the world. Overcoming that challenge can be a reward in itself, but the true benefits of learning a new language are plentiful.
In today’s world, knowing more than one language can make one a more informed person and a well-rounded global citizen.
Knowing more than one language allows one to think in more than one way, significantly developing the mind in other aspects requiring greater levels of thinking. Students who learn to speak – or already speak – more than one language are said to perform better at school; “We have strong evidence today that studying a foreign language has a ripple effect, helping to improve student performance in other subjects” (Wohl).
Learning a language from scratch allows one to develop and enhance one’s reasoning ability, memory and analysis, giving him the enhanced cognitive abilities he needs to better understand the mechanics of the world around him and apply this knowledge to his everyday tasks.
In addition to this cognitive improvement, one can learn how to communicate with and understand a larger number of people. New languages and experiences give one the ability to express oneself in multiple ways. “Change your language, and you change your thoughts” (Karl Albrecht). Learning new languages inevitably leads to knowledge of various cultures from around the world, allowing one a greater understanding and appreciation for something that lies beyond the language barrier between people. Learning of cultures from around the world helps the mind expand its horizons and explore new ways of thinking, feeling, acting and living. “Language shapes the way we think and determines what we can think about” (Benjamin Lee Whorf). Knowledge and understanding of the global community contributes significantly to one becoming a better and more educated global citizen.
Expanding one’s horizons and exploring new cultures and languages can be beneficial in many ways on the global scale, but on a personal note, it can assist one in his journey to new places in the world.
People travel everyday for business and leisure, alike. Some people travel to places where they know the native language, and others travel to places filled with a culture they have never encountered previously. Having experience with foreign languages can be rewarding due to the ease with which one can “order meals in restaurants, ask for and understand directions [and] find accommodations” (Vistawide). Moreover, with knowledge of the language and culture, one can mingle with natives of the culture for an authentic edge to the trip. Being well-informed and knowing the language of one’s travel destination can prove to be a more satisfying travel experience.
It can be said that language is the foundation that connects everyone in the world, as humans; but it can be misguiding because for many people, the language(s) they speak can be very different from the language their neighbour may speak. Still, it is evident that through language, one can communicate better with people and understand the world around him.
Learning a language aids in developing cognitive skills such as reasoning and memory, it can allow a person to expand himself to new horizons and think from different points of view, as well helping to prove in better experiences in travel and global exploration.
Learning a new language, although it may seem difficult, is a cause worth pursuing because of the significant effects it can have in making people better equipped for the world around them.
Lovgren, Stefan. “English in Decline as a First Language, Study Says.” National Geographic News 26 Feb. 2004: n. pag. National Geographic. Web. 16 Sept. 2011. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/02/0226_040226_language.html>.
“Why learn languages?.” World Languages & Cultures. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2011. <http://www.vistawide.com/languages/why_languages5-7.htm>.
Wohl, Alex. “Remarks as prepared for delivery by U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley.” U.S. Department of Education. 16 Sept. 2011 <http://www2.ed.gov/Speeches/09-2000/000919.html>.
4N (alternative scripture for the word “foreign”) is an exclusive travel blog series by Anushree Joshi. She is a travel fanatic and aspiring world traveller. Check out her adventures, tips, and travel series articles on her blog at anushreejoshi.wordpress.com. Read the introductory post here, and click here to see all 4N series articles.