Looking Into Languages

How multilingualism is shaping a new world and our mega minds


A keyboard for inputting English and Chinese characters (Flickr)

The bilingual population has already outnumbered the monolingual population. We, living in an English speaking country, may feel comfortable with knowing only one language, one that potentially bridges the communication between 7 billion people. Does this mean we can stay in our comfort zone and ignore other languages? Let us take a closer look at language learning.

To enrich ourselves

Is it possible to fully express “I feel waldeinsamkeit after seeing the komorebi” using a simpler English sentence? Learning a language introduces us to a different culture, which will be added to our own understanding and experiences to create a more diverse and unique self. It also breaks language barriers when we travel, and we can get more out of the trips. Once our horizon is broadened, we can develop a different way of thinking and change the way we see the world. Imagine you are organising a crazy carnival. Wouldn’t it be helpful if we have experienced La Tomatina in Spain and Holi in India, and talked to the locals to know more about the festivals?

To open up opportunities

Tim Doner, an American polyglot who taught himself more than 20 languages, indicated the possibility of engaging in language education and translation with the United Nations. In a competitive world where jobs opportunities are limited, having a good command of multiple languages increases our chance to get certain jobs, some of which we have seldom thought of. In Canada, knowing French may enable us to work for the government and handle diplomatic affairs. In addition, the more languages we know, the more places we can go in the future to pursue our dreams. For instance, someone who intends to be an environmentalist may study Portuguese just to get ready for working in the Amazon in Brazil.

To train our brains

If you have the ability to switch between languages, your brain will be trained without your notice and your multitasking skills will be boosted. With stronger brains, diseases like Alzheimer and dementia are less likely to develop. If learning a language sounds tempting to you but you are struggling with it, remember that using the language in real life is the key to proficiency. Listen to radio programmes and read books in that language, and practise with native speakers through various platforms. These are the stages that almost every language learner has gone through, including the prodigy Tim Doner.

Taking cultural diversity, globalisation, and various scientific researches into consideration, it seems obvious that being able to speak multiple languages is beneficial. Do you want to leap beyond the safe English rampart to acquaint yourselves with a new language?