I’m a Mexican-American woman and my first language was Spanish. Soon after I learned English. In my parents' household, we mainly speak English with occasional Spanish conversations.
Being bilingual has helped me in different situations in life, whether it’s at work, helping someone or simply communicating. I’m grateful that I’m able to easily interact with twice the amount of people, and I encourage others to take this on too. Learning another language, or at least Spanish, will benefit you and help you stand out.
Understanding one another’s culture:
Part of speaking or learning a second language comes with understanding the culture behind it. To have the means to speak with someone from another culture allows you to expand your mind. A simple conversation with an older person who only speaks their native language will tell you a lot about what they’ve seen in their life.
Having these experiences can make you a better person and all-around more open-minded. You might even be able to relate with each other during said conversation and you’ll understand that we really are all alike.
Nobody is judging you for messing up:
From my experience, nobody has ever made fun of me when I mess up on a Spanish word. I still sometimes mess up because I primarily speak English. I can vouch that you can learn a language and still not understand it unless you put it to practice.
I think that some people pick a language to learn because they happen to like that country and plan to visit one day. If you know a second language, make sure you are putting it to practice. Holding these “conversations” out loud (even if you have to talk to yourself) will only make you better!
Believe it or not, many foreigners don’t care if you mess up with their language. What matters is that you are genuinely invested in their language and culture enough to try.
Moving into a multilingual society:
I can confidently assume that most of you have heard the idea that English will not be the main language in about 30 years, right? Research conducted by the University of Cambridge shows that by 2050, any sacred lingua franca, which is currently English, "will have met its demise.” Merriam-Webster’s definition of lingua franca is, “any of various languages used as common or commercial tongues among peoples of diverse speech.” You have 29 years to figure something out! In my mind, as long as you know enough of a language to get by, you will communicate easier than you imagined.
It’s happening already:
Mesquite Elementary School in Vail, Arizona, is a Chinese Immersion school and teaches in both Mandarin and English. Tucson Unified School District caters to bilingual students and those who want to become bilingual. TUSD offers a "Two-Way Dual Language" program, which allows students to learn a second language while reinforcing their primary language.
I encourage you to consider taking advantage of the many resources available that aid in learning another language. We are a species that craves communication and we should keep at that.
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Jacqueline (she/her), born and raised in Arizona, is a senior studying digital journalism and information science & eSociety. She spends her days with her two huskies, Chemino and Roma. Jacqueline enjoys hiking and is a coffee enthusiast!