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Ethan

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Does the future of education lie in bilingualism? Is it even possible?

Hi everyone, I have been pondering for some time as to the role of language in cross-cultural interactions. As a bilingual, I have had the privilege of conversing across cultures to try and understand people from different perspectives. To me, language isn't just a medium of communication; it is a passport that grants people access to cultural knowledge.

I am also keenly aware, however, that imposing mandatory learning of a secondary language on the masses will provoke resistance and discomfort. More importantly, it seems to me that most people speak and think in a master language; that is, the language that they use in daily conversations, and the medium from which they interpret the sciences and the humanities. In that sense, few people can claim to be equally fluent in 2 or more languages.

So it is both uncomfortable and difficult to introduce bilingualism/multilingualism en masse, which leads me to some huge dilemmas:

Should we teach all children 2 languages?

Do you think it would eventually result in some form of cultural erosion as one's original master language is less spoken?

Would we end up in some sort of grey area whereby many children who cannot cope with bilingualism retains no master language at all?

And finally, would a bilingual world be a better place? (Forget world peace, what about cultural diversity??)

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  • Dec 5 2011: You said that to you, language can deepen your understanding of specific cultures. This is a view many people would tend to disagree with. Nowadays, as English is becoming more global, language is viewed increasingly as a means of communication, rather than a necessary tool for obtaining certain knowledge. Speaking different languages can certainly make you understand how other people think a lot better, but the significance of using different languages can be a controversial issue. I myself grew up speaking fluent English and a Slavic language, learnt another Slavic language at a young age, and eventually learn German and French. Even though in the past I saw language as something special, or as you put it, ''a passport that grants access to cultural knowledge'', today I see language as a means to an end, a way to pass on information, not as an end in itself, not a necessary key to a culture. Learning more languages at a young age can, however, significantly improve certain areas of the brain which would otherwise remain dormant, giving an individual more potential in life. In my opinion, people will tend to become more bilingual, with English being the other language, thanks to the internet. Native English speakers lack the incentive.

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