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languages December 18, 2007

Posted by AP in arts/culture, international.
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here’s something that has been on my mind for a while. this is partially in response to a recent article and its comments at marginal revolution.

learning another language has two benefits:
1. it allows one to communicate with people who speak that language but not one’s own, and
2. although i lack technical knowledge on the subject, i assume that it has some neurological benefit (as an analogy, listening to classical music or solving a crossword puzzle are supposed to have a similar effect).

learning another language does NOT:
3. instantly grant one profound cultural appreciation,
4. make one superior in any way to people who do not speak multiple languages,
5. allow one to pass judgment on those who do not speak this or any other language, or
6. make one any more or less culpable to societal problems.

i welcome all thoughts.

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Comments»

1. Sean Hargrave - December 19, 2007

i would add that learning a language is also a great way of meeting people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet if you only spoke your own language.
This is why i’ve launched VoxSwap – it’s currently on alpha testing at http://www.kwiqq.com:84 before migrating on to http://www.voxswap.com

if you speak another language or learn another language you greatly widen your social circle online, that’s why i launched the site. you and your readers are welcome to try it out

2. KG - December 21, 2007

i agree with your assessment, although i would say for #1 that through communicating with people who speak a different language you probably gain a more nuanced understanding of how they think that extends beyond just basic understanding of the words they’re saying…in the sense that you’re clued into the peculiarities of the way they express things.. tone of voice, inflection, slang etc…the kinds of things that the ambiguities of translation can’t get through


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