By Cristina Paolozzi, November 21 2019—
Trying to learn another language can be extremely difficult. Not only is there a whole new set of grammar rules to follow and attempt to adhere to, but there is also the ability to speak and carry a conversation outside of your textbook’s simple examples. It can be intimidating and challenging to keep up with a new language and it often takes hours of continual daily practice — time that not everyone has to spare. I’ve been trying to learn French for the past few years, and I feel as though I take one step forward and two steps back. While trying to immerse myself in the language through travel abroad opportunities or through tutoring, I inevitably end up back again in an environment that does not need me to practice or speak my target language. I’ll try to do things like switch my phone’s language into French, or set goals for myself on Duolingo, but I will never be using colloquial French in my everyday life, and I will never be exposed to it outside of Franco-Albertan communities or Québéc, on a national scale, let alone an international scale.
I definitely feel that we should be exposed to a second language sooner in life. It is shown that learning languages as a child is easier — children absorb more information at that young age including words and their meanings, instead of focusing on grammatical stuff. I know that there are specific schools that offer early immersion and that multilingual education is not that inaccessible to the average person through tutoring services or community programs. However, this education should be expanded to all schools. Adding a second — or even a third or fourth language to someone’s repertoire — will not only provide a healthy learning challenge in the classroom, but also allow for individuals to connect with a unique culture and experience new perspectives. Trying to learn a new language as an adult is tedious and requires patience and time. By ensuring that language is taught more broadly in schools across our communities, we are proactively broadening an individual’s horizons, as well as giving children access to new languages outside of the ones they may already know.
It is also beneficial to start learning languages as soon as possible, as it helps with the inevitable job search we’ll all fall victim to one way or another. Being able to put on your résumé that you have fluency in a completely different language allows you to connect with new and different groups of people and also gives you a competitive edge when sitting for an interview. I don’t mean to let my inner business student peek out, but it’s worth noting how something like a second language can help in such a competitive environment.
While I understand that there are plenty of languages spoken in Canada by many different people, it is important to build bridges between the cultural communities that already exist in Canada by making language education more accessible and commonplace. Learning languages holds many benefits, and starting early allows individuals to build their language skills without the commitment it can sometimes take as an adult. As much of a pain as it is to learn a new language as an adult, I understand its importance to me in my studies and as an individual attempting to understand their place in the world a little better. It only seems fitting to make sure that we bolster the initiative to implement stronger language programs in our schools so that we can create a sustainable and strong culture of language learning.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet‘s editorial board.