Topic: Americans should speak more than just English.

Supporting Disciplines: Psychology, Sociology and Economy

Why Be Only Monolingual?

Should Americans be constantly diagnosed with a case of “lazy monolingualism?” As Americans, we expect everyone to speak English. What a presumptuous thing to think. I think most of us are a little guilty of putting on school or even job applications that we speak another language other than English when in reality we speak only ten words of. The United States Census Bureau asks this particular question, “does this person speak a language other than English at home?” If you take a moment to analyze that question you will soon realize that the bureau’s question about what language is spoken at home is not equivalent to asking whether you speak more than one language. You may speak another language other than English at home but do you practice it outside of home? I believe bilingualism and multilingualism are a necessity of everyday life for the majority of the world’s population.

Most say English is the global language, even though only a small percent of the world speaks it. Americans feel that learning a second language is not necessary. It is not only Americans who get annoyed at immigrants for not speaking proficient English. Whenever you travel abroad, what language do you communicate with? Is it English? When we travel we expect to speak in English and be understood. Have you ever thought how wrong this is? Us, Americans, should be the ones learning and speaking the native language of that particular country.

We often think that by speaking louder or vocalizing a little slower, a foreigner will understand us better.

In the United States many people are proud to be monolingual and often look down on those who are not.

Is there such thing as “language prejudice?” Studies at Harvard have found that infants as young as five months old prefer speakers of their own language to speakers of other languages, even before they learn to talk. Psychologists showed videos of children speaking English and French to five-year olds from English and French speaking homes, and then asked the children which speaker would they like to be friends with. The English favored the English speaker as did the French favored the French speaker. The psychologists concluded that “the tendency to favor otherwise unfamiliar members of one’s own social group begins to emerge early in human life…” This suggests that bilingual babies may be more accepting of diversity and help reduce social conflicts later on.

Language not only is influenced by psychological matters but as well as economical. America’s education efficacy in preparing students for the global economy has been recently in debate. Today graduates face competition as millions of recent job entrants hit the market. Recent statistics at both the high school and university levels reveal declining interest in language. The Modern Language Association conducted surveys of enrollment in languages other than English at U.S. institutions of higher education. Its 2015 report reveals a 6.7 percent decline in enrollment in such courses. This was compared to 2013 data. The president of the Modern Language Association, Russell Brand, argues that monolingualism is a “disadvantage in the global economy.”

Many feel there is no practical advantage in learning a second language. Well I have to say I disagree completely. When learning another language you also learn culture. This emphasizes the importance of understanding the “other.” Language changes your perception on life. It provides you with a new way to think about certain things. It helps you socialize and become more accepting of other cultures. Today learning has never been more convenient. People can’t say they can’t afford classes when YouTube has become a huge platform that offers free tutorials. Apps available such as Duolingo are totally free. The Internet in general can be a great help when wanting to learn a second language. To me there is no excuse for not expanding your language skills. People of any age can manage to learn; it’s all about you putting an effort to do so.

“I speak English, so I don’t have to learn a foreign language…”

English may be accepted as an international language for business, therefore Americans feel another language is unnecessary. The problem is that the global job market is more competitive each day with new well-educated multilingual entrants. Many other countries have learned to master English on top of their mother tongue. Why can’t Americans do the same? Another reason many people oppose to expand their language skills is the time it requires to master another language. Language skills must be built over time, fluency doesn’t come easy for some and it must be constantly cultivated in order to maintain it.

I believe remaining monolingual restricts your educational and social development. It limits your communication and thinking abilities. Acquiring knowledge in another language other than your mother tongue opens up opportunities in your personal, professional, economical, and social life. I don’t believe in the statement, “you’re in America, speak English.” I understand English is America’s first language but this does not mean others should look down upon those who are bilingual. It is embarrassing to make fun of those you know more than you. Those who are proud of being bilingual or multilingual rather than monolingual are the ones who are a step ahead of the rest. Living in America is an opportunity many take for granted and even though there is this concern of maintaining the American culture, learning another language shouldn’t be threat it should be a benefit for you as an individual to grow.



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