The Foreign Tongue: Even babies do it…

2010-12-22 18.45.33Speaking that other language is good for you.  It encourages the plasticity of your brain; it enhances your view of the world; it allows you to understand your own language better.  And as the piece de resistance: it may actually make your more employable!

The Celebration of Humanities, the current series of lectures at Lewis University, is very sensitive to the role that learning languages plays in the life of an educated and cultured person. Four presentations are planned: German, Chinese, Arabic and Russian teachers will demonstrate language learning to our students.

One of the best exposures to the sound and culture of other language is through the medium of film. Subtitle film.  There are no voice-overs or dubbed presentations.  The point is to hear Russian, Chinese, and Spanish spoken, to experience the rhythm, to watch the faces on film.

But…doesn’t everyone speak English? In point of fact, no, not everyone does.  There are more Mandarin speakers, more Hindi speakers in the world than native English speakers. For that matter is behooves us to experience the dialects of English out in the world:  the American variety is slowly drifting away from Australian ‘strine or BBC received English.

Globalization is one of the educational cornerstones at Lewis. But globalization without the ability to acquire foreign languages rings hollow. The age of the colonial overlord, striding across the globe demanding that all kow tow to an imperial and imperious West, is long gone. We travel as tourists, we travel as foreign students, we travel as business people, and yes, we travel as an army—and we’ll do each best if we acknowledge the dignity of the languages spoken in those foreign lands.

Linguists are still searching for some proto-language spoken in Eden, some ur-language from which all languages have descended. The thousand of languages spoken today in vast languages groups will never again coalesce into one. But each of us has the capacity to explore more than our native tongue.

Der blaue Himmel, niebieskie niebo—that blue sky out there.  We all see it and we can each of us speak about it.  Learn how your neighbor says it. It builds a global community. It enriches your mind.



About Dr. Ewa Bacon

Dr. Ewa Bacon is a professor emerita of history at Lewis University. Her areas of expertise include the Holocaust, Auschwitz, concentration camps, Russian history and Central European history (especially Germany and Poland).

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