Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thinking Ahead in Another Language

By Ilmars Birznieks

Repeatedly educators and parents in our country question the
relevancy of foreign languages in schools. Their argument is that
practically in every foreign country we can get by with English.
Consequently, they propagate the idea that the learning of a foreign
language is a waste of time.

The idea that foreign languages are irrelevant and their learning
a waste of time ignores the facts. English is not spoken in every
country. It only appears that way to American tourists. People in
other countries naturally prefer to talk or negotiate in their own
language, a matter of national pride. However, in many instances U.S.
media, businessmen, and government officials working in other
countries are at a disadvantage because they cannot speak the language
of the country in which they work and live. They have to employ
translators, who do not always serve the best interest of their
employers, for faulty translations occur frequently.

Our educators and parents should seriously reconsider their
attitude towards requiring students to learn foreign languages at an
early age. Because of the global economy, which will become even more
global in the future, we will have more foreign involvement not less.
In preparing our students for that kind of future, we must not
handicap them. We must recognize that many of them, like it or not,
will have to work for a foreign company here or overseas. For them
the ability to speak a foreign language will be a distinct advantage.

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