My first day of school felt so strange as if I was banished to Mars. Or at least to some very far away place full of strangers where nobody speaks my language. Because indeed, nobody spoke my language on my first day of school. I was 6 years old and lost among people whom I couldn’t even talk to. How could this happen? I spent all of my childhood in Hungary, but it still felt like we just moved to another country right before me starting school. Although no such thing happened, I still blame everything on my parents. Now you might think that they did something awful to me. On the contrary. My parents wisely made a life-changing decision when they sent me to the British International School of Budapest. Why do I say life-changing? This decision of my parents makes it possible for me to stand here now. In the United States, at an acknowledged university. I went to school on that first day without being able to understand a single word of English. There I was surrounded by foreign classmates and teachers, none of whom I could talk to. Now here I am, standing in front of you and if you asked me to speak French or German, it wouldn’t be a problem either. For this ability of mine, I am endlessly thankful to my parents. They provided me with such a bilingual education that will benefit me in several ways throughout my life. Languages are a door to the world. Languages open our eyes towards other cultures. Languages let us interact with people of different nationalities and therefore provide us with huge opportunities throughout our career, whatever we choose it to be. Bilingual education must be strengthened in the United States. Schools must emphasize teaching a second language. But first of all, you are the decision makers. There are plenty of ways to enhance your language skills and broaden your opportunities. And I didn’t even mention the most important thing yet: the valuable knowledge which you can provide your future children with.
Let me start my reasoning with a few interesting facts that you might not have heard before.
Yes, you are all very lucky. My fellow international students will know what I am talking about. Your mother tongue is English, which is thought to be the most spoken language in the world. This is why most Americans don’t make an effort to study a second language thoroughly. Sure, English is one of the most used languages in the world. According to the Ethnologue, the book that catalogues all the living languages today, there are a total of 328 million people who speak English as their first language. If we add those who speak it as a second language, this number assumably doubles. But even then it does not exceed the number of Mandarine or Chinese speakers that adds up to 1213 million people around the globe. In fact, China’s surprisingly strong GDP growth can threaten the US’s economic dominance, where the GDP was a negative number last year.
This is just an example to make you see how other countries in the world are becoming more and more dominant. A huge reason to study languages. By speaking a foreign language, you are able to understand another culture. Today, when nations and people are becoming more and more dependent on eachother, it is essential that we are open to other cultures. As an immediate consequence, we improve our employment potential by speaking 2 languages fluently. What is the word that we hear day by day? Globalization! How can we be a part of it? By opening to the world and engaging in another language.
There is another interesting thought I would like to share with you. As Johann Wolgang von Goethe, the early 19th century German writer said: "Those who know nothing of foreign languages, know nothing of their own." Those who speak a foreign language are able use their own more effectively. They have a better understanding of English and a stronger vocabulary. The College Board reported in 2003...