Folium: How America Can Get Her Bilingual Groove Back via Huffington Post
I’d like to think that the language barrier in the United States could be broken simply by saying “hello”, but which “hello” do we say? In the United States, “We the people” come from a variety of language backgrounds. Our ancestors may have spoken anything from German to Italian to French. With that being said, no one person can assume that the general population knows how to say hello in any of the named languages. America’s founding fathers spoke a variety of languages. I’ve found that this country we call home is also home to many who have emigrated from other countries speaking a variety of languages.
“It’s the sheer number of different languages spoken in the U.S. that is truly impressive. For a quick illustration, take a moment to click to the U.S .Census homepage and pull down “Select a language.” You’ll find Navajo, Swahili, Amharic, Llocano, Dinka and Dari among your choices.” – Leveen
America is lacking the bilingual skills it needs to be up in the ranks with other countries throughout the world whose population speaks more than one language. Being bilingual in our country has many perks, so why aren’t people fluent in more than just English? Steve, in his article, states that there is a “rising tide of languages used in our nation.” So, I ask you, is it time to be a bilingual nation? I would say yes. Personal beneficial factors of speaking another language are many. We can learn to communicate outside of our “bubble.” We can move this country up in ranks to match that of countries far ahead of ours. Also, we find unity with the many that may be fluent in Spanish because of our heavy population of Spanish-speakers.
“Benjamin Franklin, who spoke five or six languages, at one point thought America might well standardize on German, which predominated in his native Pennsylvania. Thomas Jefferson could have written our Declaration of Independence in French as well as the English he chose (certainly better for King George to understand).” – Leveen
Spanish is known as a language of love, and for me that rings true; as I came to use Spanish as my primary language, I felt like I became a more loving person. Steve mentions that when we know another language, there is an “enhanced concern” when it comes to what happens in the world outside of U.S. borders. Sometimes we get caught up in our daily lives and forget that there is more going on than just what goes inside our coffee in the morning. This is definitely a challenge for English-dominant speakers though! Many may argue that kids are offered the opportunity to learn a second language in middle school or high school. Let me just tell you, those classes are not being taken seriously. If they were taken seriously, this would not be a topic of discussion.
I have personally seen the benefits of knowing a second language and can tell anyone I meet that I feel a deeper connection with the world that we live in. I am able to more fully understand academic aspects, such as literature and writing. I have an advantage over those who don’t speak a different language because I perceive the world differently. Now it’s time to act. There are many who are studying different languages, getting themselves equipped with different language skills to grow in their understanding of the world around them. I firmly believe that we could make this country a bilingual country by teaching ourselves first and our children so that we can raise a generation aware of not only their immediate surroundings, but also a better awareness of what happens in the world outside of U.S. borders.
LEAF Editor & Contributor