jeudi 23 juin 2011

Is World Travel Educational?

It's unfortunate that, according to an article I recently read on USA Today's website, more than two thirds of Americans are monolingual English speakers. There is a problem with the concept of foreign language learning in the United States if the majority of the population isn't interested in learning foreign languages. Is it the attitude we portray to other countries as rugged individualists that keeps us isolated? These are questions that I cannot fully answer, but being in Brussels has provided me with some new insight. For instance, it is important to have a sense of humor and a good attitude when learning a language in a foreign country. You need to be open to new experiences and new teachers.

The article, called How Educational is World Travel? written by Chris Bank for USA Today's online travel blog, highlights the importance of learning a foreign language by traveling to that country. He also uses a great quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes: "The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size." I think it encompasses my experience pretty well.

I would have to agree that by simply immersing oneself in another environment where English is not your mother tongue can greatly influence you into learning a foreign language. The person in the photo above stares intently at the globe before him, as if to ask about its existence.This kind of inquiry is important to keep when doubts about cost and other factors influence your travel descisions.

What I think deters a lot of people from traveling is that they feel it is too expensive. Yet again, Chris Bank mentions the opportunities available to learn a foreign language which are cheaper such as volunteering for the Peace Corps or perhaps taking courses at a language school. Total immersion in the language of another country is a great way to become fluent, especially in the Peace Corps where volunteers are gone for two years. That is certainly more than most foreign exchange programs.

After being in Belgium for about a week and working for Easy Languages, I have come to the realization that there are some things about a language which cannot simply be learned from reading books or rapturously listening to lectures. I have come to the realization that Belgium is a place with tons of foreign language diversity. After continually practicing my French I find it paramount to absorb a new environment through talking with others. A positive attitude can help someone gain a new perspective through guiding them into more language learning opportunities.

Chris Bank states, "While it is possible to study such subjects as art, archeology or history in a classroom, world travel provides the opportunity for students and scholars to consult research materials and conduct training on site." After walking around the city, and finding some important destinations: Manneken Pis, Le Jardin de Botanique, Delirium, or destinations such as Bruges and Antwerp, I am excited to explore this new place.

Chris Bank mentions the importance of being able to enjoy a new place not just as a tourist but by talking with the locals in the area. I think he meant that to learn a language one must find ways to adapt as if it were their home. You can check out his post here.

Please provide your comments below!

Photos from Flickr: (1) thayananth, (2) andybeatty