Having been brought up in a bilingual, bicultural family, I never really appreciated how lucky I was. I inherited the English language: all the way down from my grandparents and parents, to my siblings and me.
I absorbed it all, like we do at that early age. I still in a way take it for granted, which is a mistake. English has officially become the language of international communication, and people are now more aware that bilingualism will take you places, open doors and provide opportunities to improve yourself. But the market seems to require that we strenuously keep up with its demands and we are constantly feeling the need to do more and be more, as if that which we know and are, is never enough. Consequently, everything we strive for on a professional scale seems to get harder and more competitive. There is this nagging sensation of unfulfillment which is very difficult to shrug off. Knowing another language, especially English, can tip that scale in your favour: from competing for a position in a new job, applying for a visa, an educational program/course at home or abroad, to being able to carry yourself out in almost any country around the world.
At the same time, bilingualism leads to internationalization. This not only has to do with business, trade and politics, but it is also a big part of our daily lives. We are very much aware of what happens around the world thanks to the internet and social media. Unfortunately, though, face to face communication is becoming rare nowadays. We must start encouraging it more, and second-language learning is an excellent way of promoting it. We are confronted with a society which is more international, multicultural, yet less communicative; more competitive and demanding, but which provides fewer opportunities for young people to have a personal experience with internationalization and therefore, bilingualism. But if we could manage to take advantage of the fact that we have better access to second language acquisition thanks to cultural exchange and technology, then we might improve not only people’s opportunities, but we would also strengthen bicultural relationships.
We should encourage people to get more access to second language learning; promote cultural exchange from an early stage, and set the example in patience, openness, sensitivity, and compassion, and we need to encourage young people to learn and know what is different, and maybe that difference might not be so foreign after all.
Profesora y Licenciada en Lengua Inglesa.