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Languages, a worldwide passport

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Languages, the key of worldwide connections

Recently, I was kindly invited by a friend to attend the prize-giving ceremony of the chinese school where her son is learning chinese since six years. I was impressed by the fact he was one of the students who had the best result of his class, but also by the fact he is learning a difficult language which has not a lot of common things with western languages. He will start soon his seven year, and it is obvious that we will gain a precious passport for the future.

This make me think to a few things. We says that language is the cradle of the thought, trough language, we can communicate each other. But the language is much more than a communication tool. Some languages are more spread than others. Let us talk about english, which is spoken around the world, and is considered as the international language in the business, the diplomacy..If we consider languages only as a communication tool, and as you can speak english, why should we learn other languages ?

Language is a communication tool we use to share ideas, feelings, stories. The language is a part of our identity. I would say that language is also the cradle of the culture. In linguistics, there are two components, the signified and the signifiant. The signifiant is the acoustical image of a word, the signified is the concept, the mental representation of something. It means that we will translate a word or a sentence from a language to another, but the perception will not be the same. Some concepts are not literally translatable from a language to another. This is an evidence that the language is the reflect of a culture. It is obvious that if two people are speaking each other in a language which is not their respective native language, their will first not express exactly the same things as if they do it in their native language, and they will not perceive the message as they would perceive it in their native language.

By mentioning that point, I could see a social dimension of the language. By learning a language, you are showing a motivation and an interest for the language and the culture of the person you want to communicate with, in his native language. I often experienced that when you learn some words from the language of your interlocutor, he appreciates it and considers this as a mark of respect and of interest for his culture. And by learning the subtleties of the language, you empower the relations with your interlocutors, but you will perceive much more better the feelings, the signified of the language, and by the way, you will expand your own culture and knowledge.

In a world where we talk about globalization in many areas, it remains important to be able to speak “locally”. Each language, each culture is a personal enrichment. The concept of culture makes cense if other cultures are existing.

Languages are not only communication tools, but also an extraordinary open door to the future and to the world. Let’s think globally and speak locally !


Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

June 26, 2010 at 17:06

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