For me, being born in a multicultural family served as an enabling platform to learn different languages and, thereby, cultures. Though the search for one’s roots and identity is a never-ending process, the amalgamation of different ‘entities’ within the self has led to a more ‘holistic’personality, somehow. It brings to mind the famous quote by Goethe: “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.” Over the years learning a foreign language has picked momentum, and for a plethora of reasons: expanding one’s horizons – at a professional and personal level serves as the crux of these many reasons.
So, whether you wish to study abroad, intern in a foreign country, work in a MNC, teach a foreign language, or just want to enhance your career prospects, amongst a gamut of other advantageous options, learning a foreign language opens the mind, enhances the personality, and, most importantly encourages openness, understanding, tolerance and adaptability. Besides, in today’s fast paced world, where globalism rules the day, multilinguism and intercultural intelligence are paramount. It is also to be noted that striking a healthy comparison with the native language and its associated culture results in deeper understanding of both the mother/native tongue and the ‘acquired’ language.
Learning a language doesn’t just mean learning the grammar, understanding the correct structure of sentences, and application of learnt vocabulary, but getting to know the respective country, really up-close, understanding its cultures and traditions, the people and customs – an eye opener of sorts. There are a number of languages that are popular amongst prospective students, and, therefore, a number of institutes that provide world-class learning: French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Russian, Japanese, Italia, and many others. In Delhi itself, Max Mueller Bhavan (German), Alliance Francaise (French), Italian Cultural Centre and Instituto Cervantes, among many others, are some institutes that offer language learning courses pertaining to their respective countries.
I still remember by foreign language learning journey with an ironical fondness of sorts – I was not really learning a language that was foreign to me (I could understand and read it, but not speak it till I was, actually, 19), but my ‘mother tongue’! It helped me understand that here was a class, where people of different nationalities, backgrounds and journeys all came together with a common aim: to learn a language that they had no or little inkling about andattempt to understand its associated culture that may well be very different from their own -all with a passion to know more, learn more, and be a ‘better’ person. It was, hence, no wonder that many friends were made, that remain till today wonderful memories of times that may or may not be re-visited any more, but the experience remains, no matter what.
Sarah Berry is a Consultant – Public Diplomacy, Communications and Outreach. She is currently working with the Indian School of Public Policy