From the title, I bet you can tell that this is going to be one of those postings. That is, ranting and raving about how you don't measure up this way or that, and how you need to change with the quickness. And you would be right--well, minus the ranting.
So this post isn't so much about bilingualism or multilingualism; it's more about the attitude a person should have toward learning another language. Yeah, yeah, I know you have heard it before:
Learn another language.
It'll make you a better person.
You'll see things from a different perspective other than you own.
You'll meet the hottest person this side of the Milky Way.
You'll lose weight.
Céline Dion will sing at your wedding.
Yada, yada, yada
Scientifically speaking, if you learn a language for the last three reasons, learning critical thinking should be your next education endeavor.
Seriously, though, learning another language has benefits beyond trying to score your next date when you go to France on vacation. While furthering the human race one partner at a time is important, it's more important to know that there is a world out there other than the one in this country. Several of us here speak French and Spanish, so we know this to be true.
Here's a troubling graph for ya:
Now, you can look at this thing in a few different ways, and you do have to dig more deeply to really understand the results, but the chart pretty much speaks for itself. Being native-culture focused apparently starts at a young age, and continues to infinity, when you're arguing with your neighbor about why she doesn't speak your language--you know, American--when it's not even that hard to learn. (Xenophobic much?)
Here's the simple fact: learning another language can only be a benefit to you. Can you use Google Translate to function credibly in the Russian mafia? Yep. Can Skype Translator give you on-the-spot translation for when you're "catching up" with your non-English-speaking significant other while you're deployed? Yes, there are a lot of tools to help you avoid linguistic embarrassment. But the tools simply cannot replace the authenticity of screwing up verb translations in Swahili. That's the stuff that makes ya, you know?
You may say, "But I don't have the time to learn another language!" But you have time to get a bikini wax in preparation for your day at the pool? Don't be silly--on both accounts. You DO have time to learn another language; it's really a matter of whether you choose to take the time out to get in the head of another culture. If you do, you're cool. If you don't, well, you suck. After all, in the U.S., the Hispanic population is growing quickly, with the number of Spanish-speakers growing along with it. From a revenue-generation standpoint, you'd be a fool to not want to take time to communicate with those will be the majority in the near future. From a personal standpoint, you stand to gain a lot by intimately learning about another culture. And finally, you can go to your local Mexican-food restaurant and pronounce "burrito" properly!
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