With the way the world is moving today, language is seen to divide people rather than bring people together.
People who speak a different language are seen as different and stick to different groups. Language can also be used to judge other people. I recently heard of someone being physically attacked in the United Kingdom for speaking Polish. Their language was seen to separate them and make them an outsider in their own community. This should not be the world we live in. People outside of our country see the UK as a place of diversity and tolerance, however aforementioned situations prove this is not completely the case. Language should not define someone and definitely should not be a reason to target people.
Our native and second languages can be a part of our identities. This is the type of diversity we should be embracing not attacking. When you share a common language with someone from another culture, we are given an amazing opportunity to learn another way of living and a different view of the world. It affords us the chance to shed stereotypes and preconceptions in order to really get to know the incredible people behind language barriers.
It is time we discover other parts of the world, so we can learn more about ourselves.
I would like to take this chance to quote a student who went on an AIESEC exchange to Colombia for project Horizontes. Emma described her experience and how language impacted her experience. This was how Emma described her experience: “When I was in Colombia, I found not having any Spanish ability quite challenging. As a talkative person, it was a uniquely humbling experience but it allowed me to appreciate listening to other people’s perspectives. Especially, whenever you’re submerged in another culture that’s different to your own, understanding the native viewpoint is so important. It also made me really appreciate each interaction I had. By the end of my exchange I had really grown in confidence, along with gaining some incredible friends.” This shows how powerful language can be, be it overcoming the challenge of language barriers or how that leads to the importance of meaningful discussions with other people.
There is another barrier blocking us from experiencing new thing and broadening our perspectives. We have begun to communicate through technology and not vocally. This will restrict us to a smaller group and miss out on meeting new people from a different background to our own. This past weekend, I was travelling to and from a conference on my own. Along the way, I got the chance to meet and talk to some interesting people. Some of them were travelling for work and some were travelling to see family, but each person had a different story. There was a women I met who was travelling last minute to be with her daughter as she had her first child and a man who left everything behind to keep him and his wife safe. It was incredible to have the chance to talk to these people. When we take the time to talk to people around us, we can learn more about ourselves and gain a new perspective on life.
Language is a tool at our disposal when it comes to broadening our perspectives and world views. We can put down the technology and have a real conversation with those around us. This can mean we learn about a new culture, religion, or way of life. Sometimes it is easy to get lost in our own little bubble, and we need to burst these bubbles to expand and grow as people. Language can make a huge impact on those around us. Talking to someone may be a way to make someone’s day better. There have been many stories from young people who were contemplating suicide who have said that having people to talk to them was enough to get them to reconsider. This shows how language can save a life. It is time to open up and begin to use language in a productive way. Take some time to learn a new language when you are travelling abroad so you can experience the culture.
Finally, take the time to talk to the people around us you never know what that conversation will bring. It may change some one’s day, perspective, or views on life.
Let someone know about AIESEC. It may change their life too. Explore our foreign opportunities here: http://opportunities.aiesec.org