It started with Rick Santorum.
His unfortunate remarks about why Puerto Rico should really adopt English as its official language were typical Santorum-style – badly timed, ill-researched and not constructive at all. But behind the whole political blooper, a sentiment remains, and with it – a question: should countries strive for multilingualism? What are the benefits? And how to make it happen – not just for a country, but for individuals?
This is what I want to deal with here.
Bilingual Countries Do It Better
This is not really a hard-and fast rule. There are countries whose many languages serve them in good stead (Luxembourg is a brilliant example), and others in which different languages bring more harm than good.
But the underlying theory seems to be this: countries such as Puerto Rico benefit from multilingualism. Their citizens deal with problems better, and are more prepared to function in the global economy. Not to mention that – according to several researchers – they are more likely to retain a healthy mind for longer.
Your Language Is The Empire
If you speak English, I’ve got some bad news for you.
The whole world goes out of its way to speak your language. We listen to pop songs and watch movies in English. We write, research, negotiate and travel in English. All around the world, we have picked up your language and made it more popular than ever.
It’s a bit like finding a cheat code to the world: if you speak English, reality becomes unbearably easy.
I won’t go into detail here – this is a longer story, which will hopefully be available here soon. But I will say this: by relying only on English, you’re missing out on an awful lot.
Move to a Bilingual Country
It’s easier than you think. Wales, Scotland and Ireland are ideal destinations for the Brits; if you’re reading this in the U.S, there are many bilingual states in your country already (and there’s always Puerto Rico, remember?)
But why bother? There are several reasons:
– You will no longer be able to rely only on your first language
– You will experience a different linguistic reality first-hand, and 24/7
– You will have plenty of opportunities for instant translation – as the spatial context stays the same, two linguistic systems are present
– You may end up saving lots of money (by moving to a cheaper country)
I hope you will at least consider the idea. It’s one thing to demand that the whole world speak your language (hint hint, Mr Santorum). It’s another thing to get out there and learn the languages that exist in your corner of the world.
Which option do you prefer?
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