Why Is It Good to Learn a New Language?
I’ve been away from my keyboard and blog for a while. I’ve been distracted by a thousand other things, yet somehow, every day, I increasingly recognize and appreciate the moment in fifth grade when my mom got me a partial scholarship to the Methodist School and had me change schools to learn English.
If not for her initial vision, followed by concrete action, I would not have learned the world’s main language. Yes, I’m talking about English, and I say it with no qualms whatsoever, though I know it may offend more than one person arguing for their own, be it Spanish, French, Greek, or Latin.
Mandarin is the most spoken language on the planet, with 950 million speakers, mainly in China, followed by our Spanish, with 400 million. However, English, with its 360 million native speakers, is the main second, third and even fourth language in the world. It is a bridge and connection, it is union and relationships, it is openness and expansion, it is an opportunity and it is borderless…that is the English language.
A Bridge and Connection Tool
While we are lucky for being able to read Miguel de Cervantes, Isabel Allende or García Márquez in the language in which they wrote their masterpieces, those who don’t speak English have a disadvantage the size of planet Earth. Yet, in Costa Rica, it seems like we continue to believe we can afford to ignore the imminent need to speak Spanish and English, in that order, and both at the same level.
It is bridge and connection, it is union and relationships, it is openness and expansion, it is an opportunity and it is borderless…that is the English language.
It has been said by many, including the national newspaper La Nación in May of last year. If you missed it, I recommend reading the editorial that suggests improvements in teaching English. Then, write down all the comments it generated and you will find that not a single additional phrase was added. It seems to have fallen on deaf ears and we continue to believe we can be successful as a country without speaking English. Not being fully bilingual is a sin of national mediocrity.
How long can we lament our backward-thinking? Is it possible that there are parents who don’t realize how crucially important it is that their children dominate English as a second language? Can there really be young people who doubt the importance of English to their future?
A Bilingual Costa Rica
As alerted by the editorial mentioned, a pathetic 15% of the population between the ages of 18-35 speaks it “adequately.” I dare to think that the percentage of teachers that speak it deficiently must be high. I would venture to bet that the task at hand is torture for many, although sadly it must be few who sustainably work to learn it. This paragraph needs to change now.
Using the above as a brief and incomplete contextualization of the subject, it is crucial to accept the importance of achieving a bilingual Costa Rica. If the country doesn’t prosper, neither will the businesses, projects, and institutions within it. It is also key to agree upon its urgency as a national emergency; we should not wait one more day to take action.
First, on a personal level, those who do not speak English should make immediate and sustained efforts to master it. It won’t be long before they enjoy the advantages to their prosperity and competitive edge. Nowadays, the options for learning the language are just a computer screen and a few clicks away, at a reasonable price. After all, why would someone expect to gain so many benefits without paying what is due?
Second, on a countrywide level, there is no doubt that Costa Rica is compelled to reinvent itself as Spanish-English bilingual. In fact, our current President Solís received the advantages of learning English as a child at the very same Methodist School. His English is excellent and the reflection of a privileged education that today should be everyone’s personal goal and effort, no exceptions. No one is going to learn English for us.
Consider Learning English
In the meantime, whatever your circumstances, I invite you not to wait a minute longer. Perhaps not for yourself, but for your children, whatever route you may take. There are no shortcuts or easy roads, but I guarantee that few endeavors will yield as many benefits as learning English.
As is the case for many, and through no merit of my own whatsoever, my personal advantage since that fifth grade has been English (thanks to God, my mother, and Ms. Ruth Beall). So, if you are not among those who share it with me, I ask: What is holding you back? What are you waiting for? Who or what can you really blame? Do you have any idea how much you’re losing? Or how much you are not gaining?
Not speaking English as we do Spanish is a national deficiency. However, more than any other distinction, it is a personal obligation that cannot be put off, or we must prepare to pay the consequences and the price of not doing so.
Not speaking English carries a high price. Don’t wait for a second longer.