A Wakeup Call

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Parlez-vous français? Habla español? Many Americans look at these questions and think, “No.” Too many more think, “What?” It amazes me how a society that prides itself on being a “city on a hill,” an example for the rest of the world to emulate, can be so completely ignorant of the importance of understanding foreign languages and cultures.

Granted, who can blame us? Two vast oceans separate us from the rest of the world and, for centuries past, any immigrants coming here from elsewhere had, naturally, no choice but to abandon their native tongue for English. Things are changing, however. Globalization is causing our world to flatten out and shrink. On a domestic level, no one can ignore the rapidly-growing influence of the Hispanic community. Still, we shun the prospect of becoming a bi- or multilingual nation for the fear that we may be conceding too much of our own culture.

Contrary to what some may think, we as a society stand only to gain from adding a new language to our repertoire. As businesses become more international in nature, demand for employees who know whether to kiss, bow or shake hands when meeting someone has also increased. Many Europeans, for example, have long recognized the importance of knowing a foreign language. And what do you know? The English still speak English, and the French…well, you get the point. Basically, it’s time for America to wake up and smell the 21st-century.





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