Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Importance of learning another language

All Japanese people learn English in middle school and high school. It is mandatory. And most American people around me learn foreign languages, so I thought all Americans also have to learn other languages. But recently, I heard that American people do not need to learn any other languages. Is it true? and What percentage of American people learn the second language?

I told a guy who has not learned any other language that he is lucky. But he said he wanted to learn another language so that he can communicate with many different people.

It is true that English is like a common language in the world and you might not need to learn another language unless you need to communicate with foreign people. But I think that learning languages is not only for communication tools literally but for other important things, such as understanding people and culture.

I work at a university where everyone has learned the second language and is used to people who are non-native English speakers. Therefore, even though I am still studying English, they understand most of what I want to say. Perhaps more accurately, they somehow try to understand.
Recently, I met someone and talked with him. But he did not understand my English at all. I tried to say it in different ways using different words, but he still did not understand me. He did not know how to understand me. He was not a bad person and he apologized to me. I felt really bad.

After that, I was kind of traumatized and afraid of speaking English. But I met another person and he said that he had learned other languages so he understands how difficult it is to learn languages and also to enjoy different cultures. He also said that when he went to Japan, he could somehow communicate with Japanese people without their common language.

For understanding other people, you have many tools beside language itself. You could use body language, write down and draw pictures. We could communicate with each other if we really want to. The more important thing is whether they want to communicate. I think that learning languages is one of the incentive to know different people and culture. And it might be important for getting along with other countries in the world.


  1. I once knew someone from the Czech Republic who was native or near-native in four languages -- Czech, German, English, and French. She told me a Czech proverb: "Learn another language, get another soul". I think by "soul" she must have meant "worldview", "outlook", or "way of thinking and feeling" because she didn't believe in supernatural souls.

    Thank you for an interesting post, Mizuho!

  2. The proverb is nice! I think your interpretation is correct.
    Thanks for telling me about it. :)