Lindsay Lewis

English/ ESL consultant: Word worker, writer, teacher, mentor and poet. Author of This Won’t Hurt a Bit! on writing clear content.

Why we need other languages

Posted by on Aug 3, 2013

I have just spoken French and Spanish for a month-mostly French. I spoke Spanish when my friend’s relatives were visiting us from Granada. To really understand another culture, we have to speak the language. When I say speak the language I mean feel it, touch it, embrace it- after learning basic grammar and fundamental rules.

Many words and phrases exist in other languages which are hard to translate. Similarly, humour is culturally specific. I taught myself Spanish by taking a giant “Teach yourself Spanish” book with me to Buenos Aires. I rented an apartment and didn’t speak a word of English for two months. I made many errors; I laughed, I cried and I enjoyed myself. I understood the feeling of the words and the importance of genuinely struggling to make myself understood and to understand others.

It’s normal to understand far more than we can speak. In my case, I understood 100% of the French around me most of the time, unless people mumbled or had a strong regional dialect. However, I was dismayed by my production at about 75% of my comprehension. As a linguist, I can assure you that this process is normal, although frustrating for me, too.

I’m against globalization because it will blurr the boundaries and make languages less dissimilar- I don’t want to hear English being used in other countries except for business. Language and culture are synonymous. If we create one globby language, we will lose much of our unique heritage as people.

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