‘Languages for All?’

This was the title of a recent conference that brought together professors, researchers, and administrators to discuss the importance of all US students to become as proficient as possible in a second language.

There appears to be a growing consensus that proficiency in a foreign language becomes increasingly for reasons of economic competitiveness, national security, and cross-cultural competence in the age of globalization. Major obstacles are reduced public funding, a widespread tendency of Americans to assume that English is sufficient to effectively operate globally, and a lack of cooperation within and between educational institutions on all levels.

Research increasingly shows the significant cognitive, economic and social benefits of multilingualism, which strongly correlates with multiculturalism. The earlier children and students learn a foreign language, the easier the learning process and the greater the benefits. Language being the ‘master key’ to culture, one cannot begin to really understand a country or a region without gaining significant proficiency in the respective language. Language opens many doors – to oneself, others, and the world.

As Ludwig Wittgenstein remarked in a philosophical context:

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

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