How do you say…

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Parlez-vous fran퀌_ais? ¿Hablas español? Lei parla l’italiano?

PSU boasts that it is Oregon’s most diverse university. Part of that commitment means offering 21 different languages ranging from Latin to Japanese to Swahili. Walking down the halls, a myriad of languages can be heard from multilingual students. Everyone should be fluent in at least two languages.

Many monolingual students groan about the one to two years needed to obtain their degree. Two years of university second-language courses teach barely enough pidgin for travelers to engage in simple conversations. The requirements are designed to enforce a well-rounded education, but like any rule, it begins to seem like a chore. Learning a new language becomes a burdensome task rather than the adventuresome experience it should be.

Perhaps you have always wanted to speak another language because of your heritage or a particular culture always fascinated you. Even if you have never possessed a burning desire to learn a particular dialect, acquiring a second language still has benefits.

For those enchanted by a particular vernacular, language opens portals to new cultures and worlds via books, entertainment and news articles not printed in English. These can broaden the horizons of our mind by supplying an intimate perspective of that culture. They also provide a different impression of the world and how the United States affects it, which we won’t get from cable news or any local broadcaster.

Voyages are more enjoyable if you are able to connect with locals. Not only will you be able to obtain a richer cultural experience, but you will also be able to avoid commercialized, overpriced tourist traps-the natives would be able to give you directions to see something truly spectacular that you couldn’t encounter at home.

Learning from native speakers through exchange programs is the ideal way to learn a second language, but isn’t always plausible. In addition to the courses PSU offers, some Internet sites, such as www.livemocha.com, are beginning to offer free language lessons and allow you to speak to native speakers via messaging or video.

In addition to being able to connect with more people, language enhances employment possibilities. In the flooded job market, employers are increasingly looking for individuals who stand out from the swarm of applicants. Most companies will pay extra salary for employees proficient in more than one language. Usually businesses are looking for Spanish, but there are several international companies that send people overseas to a myriad of countries. Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, followed by English and then Spanish, but people should study the language or languages that most interest them. Multilingual people have told me that once you learn one language, the second is much easier.

By the time we reach college, we are at a disadvantage to most other countries. Even in impoverished countries, such as India, the students begin learning at least one foreign language in elementary school and continue through high school. For most of us who grew up in Portland, a foreign language wasn’t even offered in our early public education. It still is not. Some schools offer after-school foreign-language sessions, but not all families have the money for them, and they aren’t in-depth enough for students to reach fluency.

Perhaps through our persistence to learn more languages, our children will be taught additional languages at an earlier age. It will broaden their education immensely.

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