by Brianne O’Donoghue
The technology of today has greatly impacted human interaction in unfathomable ways. Cell phones, social networking sites and the internet are all efficient ways to communicate with people all over the world. With the dawn of these technologies and the move toward a more global economy, we have created a deft web of communication. This fact poses both unprecedented opportunities as well as platforms for conflict, the main one being, can we communicate effectively?
The key to masterful communication is understanding the languages and cultures of the world. Without connection, communication is inane and without communication, we are powerless. How can we prepare students to become the ambassadors of tomorrow? How can we ensure that students will be invaluable to society? The answer is language. Spanish teacher Srta. Zeiher stresses, “Language and culture are interwoven; culture is expressed through language, so knowing another language provides the opportunity to understand different cultural perspectives.” But what with the bombardment of budget cuts, El Segundo has been forced to abandon many of its extracurriculars and electives, including French. While El Segundo High has never offered a myriad of lingual options, the elimination of the French program reduces the selections to Spanish only. And while Spanish is a widely-spoken and valuable language, students should have a choice as to which language they want to take. Senior Cheyenne Gerber agrees, “I believe it limits students from finding a culture they admire. Sure, Spanish is used all over southern California and it has to be available. However, we should be able to expand their horizons about cultures by offering other languages such as Japanese or German. We should not be so limited.” If students are enthusiastic about their language, they are more compelled to pursue their language. Not to mention, other languages, like Mandarin Chinese, are on the rise with over 1 billion speakers reported in 2005. As a result of the limited lingual options, students who recognize the importance of language like Gerber have looked to other ways to pursue their passion.
Though many people see little import in knowing another language, knowing two or more languages can create lucrative and exciting opportunities. Gerber confirms, “I have heard many cases of employees being hired and promoted because of their language abilities, which is a huge plus for those in the business world.” Zeiher adds, “The more students become familiar with foreign languages and develop cultural awareness the better equipped they’ll be to impact intercultural communication and understanding in the world.” In addition, travel and cultural interactions can be enhanced by the knowledge of language. Gerber adds, “For me, my knowledge of a foreign language has given me opportunities to travel, understand music and movies, and communicate with new and exciting people. Languages have led me to opportunities that have taught me a lot about cultures and given me a more positive perspective of the world.”
But more than anything, learning a language can be rewarding. Whether you plan to use your linguistic skills competitively or not, the satisfaction that comes from being able to understand other cultures is an astounding skill in itself. Zeiher concludes, “Immersion is the best way to learn a language and gain invaluable cultural insight. Put your second language to use in the real world, learn how another culture sees and experiences life, and have an amazing time.”