So many of us, especially in academic settings, strive to attain the literacy peak of our chosen fields/areas of interest. In my more immediate world, I’m surrounded by many, doctorate bearing and not, who have pushed to reach the theoretical, academic peaks. As admirable as the devotion of these aspirations are, I can’t help but wonder what gets discarded in the process of reaching this rather long, windy destination? what are we overlooking on the way? What alternative roads are overlooked? From the influences of my own path, and my admittedly biased perspective, language seems to be one of them. In such a heavy handedly monolingual society, where many cannot be bothered to push beyond the lingua franca of the world, there is a lot being missed out, internal and external to the U.S. Even existing linguistically and cultural diverse populations feel the societal pressures of assimilation. With the current societal structuring and misguided, but well intentioned attempts to create a melting pot, vast and diverse pools of knowledge, as well as opportunities to reaffirm and expand identities are being lost. This loss begins with language.
I’m sure that there are plenty that might argue that with the influence of the U.S. there is less need to learn another language, outsiders can learn our standardized version. Around the world, there are plenty of people who assert such a pursuit is not necessary since they have not and never intend to leave the comforts of their country for extended periods of time. To this I say, beyond the more obvious, external and tangible gains found beyond the borders, there is also a much more significant, deeper internal exploration awaiting. Looking from a more instrumental perspective of literacy, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, interaction with diverse cultures will become common. Even if said countries learn our language and understand us we could fail to understand them and stand on a stage of equal footing and exchange. The culturally inept are less likely to be incorporated.
Even if one doesn’t “master” a language, by expanding familiarity of languages and their cultures, one is able to better understand and consequently empathize with others (regardless of differences). In the long run, this should encourage international relations and harmony. The process of this literacy pursuit, not only expands access to realms of knowledge, but also the sense of the self. It’s a complicated, introspective and rewarding process. For those already fortunate enough, it is paramount that we not only encourage multilingual backgrounds, but also nurture and preserve them. Through the preservation of a person’s language, their culture and associated identity also remain. If we want models, we need only to consult the successful educational programs of other countries.