In a world of Brexit, Trump and seemingly general unrest, I have lately been considering the importance of communication – and more specifically of languages themselves. With the creation of both physical and metaphorical barriers occurring across the world, it seems to me now more important than ever to assess how languages can work to transgress those boundaries, and to explore what other benefits languages can provide.
The most general of benefits that languages bring to everyday life are clear – in life and in business. It opens you, and your business, to new relationships, facilitates communication, and can also aid memory skills and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s’. Yet, these positive aspects have always been true, and have stood the test of time. What, we must then ask ourselves, are the main benefits of languages in the landscape of 2017? Well, they are manifold.
Firstly, with the UK soon to leave the European market, British businesses can no longer depend on the unity and the security blanket that the EU provides to guarantee and maintain working relationships; extra effort will surely need to be made. To that end, languages are crucial. The grasping and utilisation of languages in business will work as evidence that businesses are committed to making progress despite their separation for the rest of Europe. Moreover, with the inevitable slowing of fresh, foreign academic talent coming into the country, due to Brexit’s uncertain effect on the Erasmus scheme, more effort will also need to be made by businesses to travel and source this talent – language skills can surely only help in this endeavour.
What about outside of the corporate world? If 2016 were to have a theme, surely the main one would be that of alienation. We saw it with Brexit – millions of voters feeling unheard, and finally using their latent, bubbling unrest to disrupt the status quo. Then came Trump – the shock result that actually showed the world how many discontented Americans there were; many of whom claimed they voted thusly as they felt like they were muted foreigners in their own country. The parity between the two events was palpable. What, though, does this have to do with learning languages? Everything.
Languages are the basis of communication, of being heard, of connecting with others. Clearly something across the world has been lost in translation, and it needs to be fixed. One crucial step is placing emphasis on more thorough integration of communities and peoples through the sharing of languages. Perhaps if people sharing countries also shared their mother tongues, and were able to express themselves more clearly and freely, the feeling of discontent would diminish. By holding onto an inherent part of their culture, whilst acclimatising to the one in which they now live, a more harmonious state of being could possibly exist. It is but a humble theory.
Proof that this theory is workable may well exist, however. Take recent research into certain communities in South America: it found that communities in countries such as Bolivia that are able to maintain their indigenous Quechua language and culture, whilst also homogenising these aspects in Spanish were marked as feeling more unified, and yet also more open to future change, and the mixing of cultures and languages. Something old, something new, something borrowed…
Communication is key. This is said about business, marriage – you name it – but it rings just as true for everyday life in 2017. Languages contain cultures, ideas, emotions, innovation. Languages cross borders, time zones and time itself. If we want to maintain a free flow of talent, information and business across a world that is seemingly more fractured every day, then the emphasis must be placed on the free flow and exchange of languages.