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by anonymous

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The vital question is, how necessary is it for English speakers to take the time and effort to learn a second language? This question isn't always an easy one to answer. Speaking as an European, without English as our mothertongue, we are all very familiar with the necessity to master atleast one further language beside our native one. The language of choice 99 times out of a 100 will be English.


But the question posed here is, if your native language already were English, would it then pay off to learn a second language? I would say that a lot indicates that it would.


Even as we speak there's slowly happening a shift of focus away from the English speaking world to Asia and especially contries such as China and India. China and India have the two largest populations in the world and combined they make up more than 1/3 of the worlds pupulation. With the economic uprising of these two nations the world order as we know it is bound to take another shape in the future.

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Mandarin Chinese is the language in the world with the most native speakers, about 840 million people. As China's position of power in the world increases, the knowledge of their language will become (?) and more important for foreigners .


In the past, English speakers did well only knowing their own language. With the English speaking world being the main economical and political force in the world, foreigners had no choice but to pick up English and make adjustments. And to this day we still need English to do business, write scientific reports and even as a lingua franca when communicating with people from across the world.


But we are seeing a slow but steady shift away from the Anglo fixation, and it's happening right now. What this means is that in the future there probably will be other languages with the same status as today's English, and we can not ignore it or stop it.

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In order to keep up with the devlopment English speakers may finally be forced to learn a second language. And the already bilingual need to take a moment and realize that by knowing only two languages might not be enough. We need to encourage ourselves into taking the first steps into motion as soon as possible.


Then again, you shouldn't be too sure about anything in this world. Some people are fully convinced the technical devlopment in the near future will able us to accurately communicate with people from all around in any number of languages by the use of computers. The automatic translating software already in use today is getting more and more sophisticated. At this moment it can already pick vocal input. If this trend continues, many would argue that the need to learn languages would greatly diminish.


It is a valid arguemnt in many ways, but to at such an early stage lay all of our hopes and fate in a development of such technolgies might be just a little foolish. The step for translation software from doing rudimentary translations to sophisticated highly accurate translations is still very far, and it will take a whole lot of work and time to figure everything out.


Another valid argument against the need for foreign language learning is that instead of wasting the enormous amount of time and effort into learning a new languge, you would a larger return on investment from learning for instance other skillsets. Because we have to face it, today's world is a very pragmatic place, and if you want to be successful, learning a foreign languge is probably not going to be the ultimate way to go. You'd be much better off learning more about other subjects as econmics or management et cetera.



But from a strictly idealistic point of view, the real return of investment from learning a foreign language is actually greater than you could imagine. Learning a foregin language is not merely learning to learn how to say what you say in your native language in a foreign langue (a bit odd). By learning a foreign languge you have the possibility to have your whole way of thinking about things completetly changed. By learning a foreign languge your brain is forced to work in new patterns, and while using the foreign language you will get used to expressing your thoughts in a whole new fashion.


It's been proven that speakers of different languages sometimes perceive the world in different ways. For instance the perception of such fundamental aspects such as color a sometimes vary across languages. Less measurable is the theory that more subliminal things might also be effected by language. And the philosophical debate about whether or not the language forms our thought or our thoughts our languge is still being fought out.

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By mastering foreign languages it is clear that our cognitive abilites will improve and our world-view will widen. But these are not “tantative” things and by far not the first reason people choose to learn foreign languages. The single utmost common reason is just the oppurtunity to get to talk to people from all over the world, and especially in their own language. That's one of the greatest delights in language learning.


Furthermore I believe that even though our automatic translation software in the future might get so advanced as to perfectly translate one sentence from one language to any other language, there still would be a lot of benefits from actually knowing other languages. Word order


Theres a wealth of knowledge in every language, where the language itself is the ultimate vehicle. By translating any sentence from one language to the next, there's by definition going to be something lost on the way. Because a lot is inherent in the language itself.


To reach a conclusion my personal belief is that learning a language is a great gift you can give to yourself and something you will reap benefits from the rest of your life. But if actually (missing pronoun?)should be a top priority to all people is a question still open for debate. Some will be content in relying on translators, and put their focus on other important matters.


And we all know that the current foreign language education in our public school systems are far too ineffecient. It's a systemic failure but by employing some changes it is possible to increase the effiency of our language education in our schools. We also need stress the vital importance of the students to bring their language learning with them home and never just inhibit it to the classroom environment.


If you are serious about learning a foregin language and want to get good results, only by practicing and using it in the classroom setting is not going to get you very far. The only way to reach fluency is by immersing yourself in the foreign language at all sorts of environments. That way you will learn to actively use it in all sorts of situations that may arise.


One of the greatest shortcomings of the western world is that our outlook is too narrow. People from the rest of world are familiar with two worlds, both their's and our's. Us westerners as only familiar with one, our own. If this failure is not rectified in the near future, we are bound to the rest of the world swish past us in a short time to come.

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