Audrey Misiano

French and Spanish Teacher, Life-long learner, Teacher - high school

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Is monolingualism mainly a white-anglophone condition? Could global multilingualism promote peace?

As a World Language teacher and a parent who's trying to raise bilingual kids in a monolingual town, I often wonder if and how our efforts as parents and language educators benefit our children. Many people see amazing benefits in learning another language, while many others feel it is a waste since "everyone in the world is learning to speak English." What are your thoughts? Is monolingualism limited to locations like the USA? If everyone everywhere were to learn at least 2 languages, native tongue, plus a language of choice, would this help promote peace through the multicultural awareness that language learning fosters? Do you think language learning is important? Why?

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    Jul 22 2011: Language is part of culture. If one ever wants to really understand other cultures, speaking this culture's language is a must.
    I lived in 5 different countries and speak 4 languages fluently. I could have "survived" with just English, but doing so, I would never have integrated in these cultures.
    Beside, visiting a country or more importantly living in that country and speaking the local language is also an act of courtesy which in most cases is highly appreciated by the locals.
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      Jul 25 2011: What languages do you speak? Did you learn them all while living abroad? I learned French and Spanish that way. Would love to be able to learn a fourth someday by living abroad again once my kids are a bit older.
  • Jul 22 2011: I personally continue to believe that being at least bilingual puts someone on the path to being bi-cultural. If we don't have true face-to-face conversations, where we listen to people in their language, we will be most poor. The world needs people to speak to one another. It is interesting, that Mexico just decided to begin teaching English as early as kindergarten through (our equivalent) of 9th grade to all students. Yet in many parts of the US, the study of languages has been sacrificed to the God of standardized tests.
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      Jul 25 2011: Michael,
      Thank you for your reply. I really like what you say about how being bilingual promotes becoming bicultural.
      Mexico is right on track then as far as when second languages should be taught (and how long) you have an article or other source that you could share with me about Mexico's language education? I'd be really interested in reading it. Thank you!
      • Jul 26 2011: Trying to find the article...I will get it to you. It was in the Mexican newspaper El Universal.
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      Jul 23 2011: Hi Kate, I think one of the reasons why people don't learn more languages is that the way they are usually thought is not very efficient. I remember that I hated studying English at school (my native language is German) and after 8 years attending English at school, it was still pretty poor. I only started to improve when I actually started using it in real life situations (job, traveling, etc).
      Spanish and Portuguese I learned differently. I simply took a few weeks of classes just to get the basic understanding how the grammar works and after that I just continued learning like a baby....listening and repeating. You wouldn't imagine how easy it easy to learn a language this way. Obviously, to make that method work, you must be immersed in a culture that speaks this particular language and you also must let yourself go, meaning, stop worrying whether you actually use the language correctly. At the end, language is only a convention between people and as long as you understand them and they understand you, everything is fine. Many people just worry too much and are afraid to make mistakes and therefore don't want to speak. But as many things in life, practicing is the key to success.
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          Jul 24 2011: Kate, Thank you for your comments and insight! I agree with you 100% on how important and powerful it is for people to live in another country with a very different culture. How awesome would it be if everyone had the chance to do so in their educational career?! It is also very refreshing for me to see that you also believe that this act would help promote peace!!!
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    Jul 25 2011: Hi Audrey, I speak German (my native language), English, Spanish and Portuguese.
    I started with English at school, but can't say that I learned a lot. My English only took off after working for US companies and being forced to use English. Later I lived in the US which helped a lot. Nothing better for learning a language than actually living in the country. Spanish too, I started in school, but I always liked this language and constantly looked for ways to practice it. Again, I really became fluent after I started to travel frequently to Latin America and later living there. The same for Portuguese, although, Spanish already helped a lot with Portuguese. The 2 languages are very similar and living in Brazil was certainly very useful to improve my language skills.
    So, my experience is that to really become fluent in a language, you have to be exposed to it. Living in the country is certainly a benefit, but not a must. You also can read, watch movies, find people you can talk to etc. Today, being able to effortlessly connect with anybody anywhere on the planet is a great help for those who want to practice a foreign language.