You are more afraid of learning a language than engaging with people. You are more likely to treat those around you with the same consideration you do for a language you are learning when learning one.
For those who speak only one language, it is easy to be overcome by prejudice to another group of people vocalizing differently. Here is an example: Passing by the subway, you hear two people engaging in a conversation, they are loud, obnoxious, disturbing even, but they are speaking in your native tongue; this doesn’t annoy you.
It annoys me. This perception I carried, is now instilled within my mind and I can no longer view you equally. You are not equivalent, in mannerisms, in speech, and in movement.
It is no one’s fault, we cower from different, it is the way the mind was programmed. However, can learning this Language we run from, bring us closer to one another?
That answer is yes. Language, an important adaptive trait established by humans, is a pertinent way for us to engage our fellow compatriots. We all speak one in one form or another, and they can be different. However, languages also came with behavioral traits and mannerisms, then culture.
This is how humans became different from one another. Not genetics. We are susceptible to these differences because there is nothing that equivalates to us.
Languages are just sounds made from vibrations in our throats, so it may seem odd to associate it with behavior. However, language plays a quintessential role in developing key characteristics in individuals which forms the mold for language.
In Yuri Kumagai’s paper “The Effects of Culture on Language Learning and Ways of Communication: The Japanese Case” Kumagai explains that learning a language does not carry over to another person, if one does not learn the culture surrounding it.
When you learn a language, you are sacrificing your pride and shell of self. You are defenseless and open to a barrage of people opening fire on you. This is crucial as it gives the native people the interpretation that you have confidence in your weakness and are open to learning about them.
Why is confidence in learning a language crucial? People are more attracted to confident people; the effects of having confidence can allow you to expose yourself more to learning about a culture.
By learning culture, you will learn how to treat the people who exist in that culture with respect, compassion, and understanding. A language is a tool for the heart of a person. The culture is the link.
Mark D. White’s article “Does Everyone Find Confidence Attractive?” describes the pros and cons of being a confident individual. White says that “Confidence [is] … an awareness of who you are, regardless of how you compare or measure up to others.”
Confidence plays a role in bringing others to you, White says confidence “shows people that you’re comfortable with yourself, which grants you a certain poise, charm, or assertiveness.”
In a personal case, I have been learning the Japanese language for well over five years. Visiting Japan just this year, from my experience, if I did not speak Japanese to people. They shied away from you than if you had spoken to them in their language.
There is a wall that people put up, a defense, where they have subjectively positioned you as a non-peer, an outsider.
When you take the time and patience to learn a language, instinctively it is felt by the people who surround themselves by that language. From that point forward, it is then that people open themselves to you and decide that they will open the gateway to their stories.
From my experience in Japan when I behaved and spoke Japanese to the people. Their perception of me changed, and as if in an instant as if a long-lost family member arrived, people were in tune and more informative.
Willing to share more about themselves with me. In America, we permeate with many cultures and languages, and although this is representative of diversity.
It does not mean we treat each other with the same fairness that we would treat someone who matched our culture.
In New York City, our diversity is very high. We have backgrounds from the middle east, all the way to Asia and more.
However, there are issues ingrained in the city that create the “walls” that hide those very people in plain sight. For example, a single-minded perception of Asians could be that all are Chinese when realistically there is a varied difference between the groups.
If we had taken the time to understand a few principles about the languages and cultures that surrounded these groups of people, we would be less likely to make strong biases.
We may think someone is obnoxious, ignorant, and unintelligent if they speak in their native language and cannot speak our language. This causes misunderstanding and differences in what is accepted in each view of society.
However, studies have shown that being bilingual creates greater empathy towards others. It is easy for a person to be biased if they have only ever learned one language in their life.
Feeling left out, it is always easier to blame someone and be more biased towards that someone when they are different, and you do not understand who and what they are.
A language opens the door to learn more about someone, and for that reason, it should be why learning a language is important for the workplace and everyday life.
If language can change your character, understanding and make you more intelligent, what is stopping people from learning one? Most likely, it is the social pressures of our western society that push us to learn just one and only one language.
Though you are faced with these social pressures. Know that a month of work towards your new language will open up a breadth of knowledge, people, and happiness.