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Learning a foreign language opens up the world


Learning a foreign language opens up the world in a quite dramatic way. Alexandra Wood recently graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in French and German and is presently an intern in the European Commission in Brussels. She meets people from all over Europe on a daily basis and her experience has taught her how “learning a language is really about getting to know other people and other cultures better. You actually learn to see the world in a different way.” To see the world through the eyes of another person by speaking a different language can be a wonderfully enlightening personal experience for any of us. We actually do then see many more similarities between us and them – and far fewer differences!

That view is certainly shared by Daniela Flint, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Human Growth and Development at Lancaster and Morecambe College. She has also taught German for over 25 years in the region. She is convinced that knowing and using other languages “helps prevent our segregation and isolation from other people, as well as widening our horizons and helping us connect with people on a different level.” She’s also seen how “communicating with others, playing with new and unfamiliar words (and making mistakes!)” provides fun and enjoyment for people well into their eighties.

So far I’ve been emphasising the psychological and cultural benefits of being equipped, even at a fairly basic level, with an understanding of a foreign language. A more sophisticated knowledge of any foreign language in today’s international workplace “gives a person many skills such as gathering information, assessing and interpreting it, leading discussions and developing opinions, all skills that employers value more and more.” That’s the firm view of Dr Birgit Smith, Head of the Department of European Languages and Cultures at Lancaster University. She and her department have helped thousands of students find rewarding work in today’s international world. We could all benefit from retaining more of these multi-skilled graduates in our own region.

 

 

This article is part of the Chamber Chat series published in the Lancaster Guardian.

Posted: 23rd February 2016

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