Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Being multilingual opens the world

Language immersion: Being multilingual opens the world


Whenever you find yourself in France, Japan or any other foreign country and you're lost and unable to ask for directions because you speak only English, you may have wished you had learned another language.

Learning a new language isn't easy, but if done, it can provide a wide range of opportunities for teens in more ways than one.

"Being multilingual nowadays opens the world to a person," says University of Guam French Lecturer Marcelle Diambra. "It opens doors to other cultures and helps the person better appreciate other cultures."

According to a study by Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., the best way to learn a new language is through language immersion. Language immersion is the process of learning a language by surrounding yourself with an environment where the language you are learning is used on a daily basis.

'You have to be willing to learn'

Okkodo High School junior Arielle Woseley says she was sent to the island of Palau to learn the island's native tongue through language immersion. "My parents sent me off island because they wanted me to have new experiences and learn a language," she says.

Woseley, 17, who comes from an Australian and Marshallese background, also found that immersing herself in the language allowed her to learn more.

"My friends would speak to me directly in Palauan and I would participate in selected conversations," she says.

Woseley also learned the language by listening to conversations and asking what certain words meant. "You have to be willing to learn," she says. "You have to be dedicated and focused and in the long run it will help you out in life more than you think."

Kristen Shsueh, a recent graduate of George Washington High School, is improving her language skills by attending the Chinese School of Guam.

"Going to a language school is easier than learning through books, etc. because the teacher is actually in front of you teaching you." she says. Shsueh says that attending the school versus having a one-on-one tutor is better because you are able to share the experience with friends.

"When you have friends with you you're able to practice and they're there to support you," says the 18-year-old.

"Attending a language school is good because it is a fun way to learn something new without having to be bored and tired," Shsueh adds.

Teens who are interested in learning a new language but don't want to attend another school should consider teaching themselves a language.

"It isn't easy learning a language yourself, you need to be committed so you can ultimately reach your goal," says Jayde Bello, a senior at Harvest Christian Academy. Bello (pictured above), who is of Turkish and Chamorro descent, is fluent in Turkish and English; she also taught herself Arabic.

"I went out and bought a CD and a book that helped me learn the language more," she says. "I also tried to look up things online because I couldn't practice with anyone because of the lack of Arab speakers on Guam."

Other benefits

Knowing a foreign language improves proficiency in your own language, says Diambra.
It also helps people appreciate life from a different perspective and is vital for learning about others, she says. Teens interested in pursuing careers in the international job market should speak more than one language, Diambra says.

"The world is getting smaller and I believe that being multilingual gives a head start to any person who is at least bilingual."

Sheena Hess, manager of Zagu Pearl Shakes in the Micronesia Mall, agrees with Diambra.

"We encounter people who speak more than one language daily and sometimes they can't understand English, so someone who speaks more than one language will be hired quickly," she says.

Hess adds speaking another language, specifically Japanese because of the tourist population, is a plus.

"Guam has mostly Japanese tourists so it would make sense to hire someone who could speak Asian languages," she says.

In addition to getting hired, Hess says that learning another language helps you communicate better and relate to the customers on a friendly level. As Hess says, Japan is Guam's largest tourist market, and teens who wish to pursue a career in the tourism industry must know at least some form of basic Japanese, University of Guam Professor of Japanese Toyoko Kang says.

"Students who can communicate with tourists in Japanese are welcomed in the tourism industry," Kang says. "People that are sent to Guam to work in hotels from Japan cannot communicate well in English, so a person who is bilingual in Japanese and English is in a better position to be hired."

Some job arenas in which bilingual people are favored include the federal government, retail and tourism industries, and especially medical field, she adds, although it is great for all careers. Bello agrees that being multilingual improves your chances in finding a career.

"You can communicate with a lot of other people and if you choose a career that requires the knowledge of another language, you're just one step ahead."

Protecting the native tongue

According to Guam Community College Chamorro Language Instructor Rufina Mendiola, learning the native tongue of the Mariana Islands is just as beneficial as learning any other language.

"Young adults deciding to stay in the Marianas will have many opportunities if they learn Chamorro, specifically in finding jobs." she says. Mendiola says that learning basic conversation in Chamorro will lead to finding jobs in both the public and private sector.

"Because Chamorro is the official language of Guam, you can be an interpreter in the court, mental health, the hospital, and just about any government and or business agency."

Mendiola then stresses the importance of protecting the language and the role teens and their parents play in doing so.

"Teenagers especially, they are the future and they will carry on the language and culture," she says. "All the young adults and parents out there, I challenge you: Parents, teach your kids the language, and kids, make an effort to learn the language, prutehi I lengguahi (protect the language)."

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com

1 comment:

Lucy said...

There are so many advantages to learning new languages; The most obvious, is for better communication. It opens up a whole new world when we are able to engage, interact and understand eachother. Very interesting post. Thanks.