January 8, 2009

All Languages Have Value

Well, I'm still debating which language to take. Earlier this week I learned I was laid off, which has led me to consider using my new free time to learn a language.

What bothers me is that when I tell people this, people say "learn Spanish, it'll boost your chances of getting a job." This bothers me because I don't want to learn a language for the sake of boosting my marketability. I believe learning a new language should be something done based on passion. If the language turns out to be a resume booster, then that's an added benefit.

Generally, I think children should be given a choice in what language to learn. When I decided to take German in high school, my parents made it clear to me that they preferred I take Spanish. Was I wrong? Were they wrong? Who knows?

In the end, I studied the language with gusto for five years and have many fond memories of my classmates, teachers, and outings with the German club. Ditto when I took Japanese in college. My parents thought Japanese classes would mean I would be a five-year student (I graduated in four years). But I enjoyed my interactions in Japanese class and it was a great exposure to a vastly different culture.

Now, neither language has helped nor hindered my job prospects. Still, I wouldn't trade my language education for anything.

I worry about the younger generation. Will they have a passion for "Spanish" or will it be just another requirement for "getting a good" job, a task to be trudged through on the way to financial comfort? Personally, if I were someone that spoke Spanish, I'd prefer to interact with someone passionate about my language and culture.

At the same time I recognize the need for hospital staff, police, emergency personnel, etc to know at least some Spanish. And, I recognize that the need is growing for more Spanish speakers.

In the end, I guess I think there needs to be some degree of choice in language education. And, all languages have value.

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