EMPEROR Charlemagne, the king of the Franks (742-814), once said: “To have another language is to possess a second soul.”
Mark Amidon, a writer, said: “Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain without surgery.”
Italian film director Federico Fellini said: “A different language is a different vision of life.”
Psycholinguist Frank Smith said: “One language sets you a corridor of life. Two languages open every door along the way.”
Proficiency only in our mother tongue is not enough.
We need to learn foreign languages. Studying a language is a multi-faceted learning experience that enriches us.
Our listening skills and memory will be boosted. It has been said that although learning a language is complex, speaking or learning a foreign language will give the brain a good workout.
A good brain exercise will make it stronger.
Research has found that learning a language is one of the most effective and practical ways to boost intelligence. It involves memorising rules and vocabulary, which strengthens the brain muscle and improve memory.
By speaking another language, we will stand out in a crowd.
We will have more confidence and more options will open up for us.
Language learners are confident and will never give up, but keep learning.
They can integrate into a community and participate in social activities.
The English language has become a universal language in international relations and foreign trade.
Similarly, languages like Mandarin, French, Spanish and Italian have become significant in international communication.
As a result, more jobs will be created and those who will benefit are those who can speak more than one of these important foreign languages.
The ability to speak foreign languages will open the door for the development and exchanges in art, music, dance, films, cuisine, philosophy, medicine, technology and the sciences.
Every language has its own knowledge base.
To have access to this knowledge, one will need to get through the language first.
Learning a language will facilitate the exchange of information through bilateral relations, international forums, seminars, exchange programmes and conferences.
The government implemented the Look East policy, and students have been sent to study in Japan, South Korea and China.
As a result, a number of our students not only studied Japan-ese culture, but they were also exposed to a deeper understanding of the Japanese’s resilience, discipline, inner strength and struggle to succeed despite the odds.
The Education Ministry should go one step further. Now, the education system emphasises on dual languages.
Perhaps, in future, schools should provide more optional language classes.
As far as security is concerned, learning languages will be an asset to our security forces.
Being proficient in Urdu, Bangladesh, Javanese, Nepalese, Myanmar, Vietnamese and Tagalog will make it easier for the police to solve cases involving foreigners.
With language skills, we will have a strong network of intelligence, and we can protect our nation from enemies within and outside the country.
Most Malaysians are bilingual. We are not only proficient in Bahasa Malaysia but also in English, Mandarin, Tamil and Arabic.
But, we should also learn from China, Russia and Singapore, where their diplomats are proficient in the language of the country they are posted in.
The British government, in 2013, was urged to develop a strategy to recognise the importance of languages.
Then foreign secretary William Hague was reported to have described linguistic skills as “vital” and said that “the reopening of the Language School would be an investment in long-term British influence in the world”.
He said: “The ability to speak, read, listen and write in foreign languages is one of the fundamental skills of our diplomats. Without it, they cannot get under the skin of a country and really understand its people.”
Former South African president Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
“If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
MOHAMED MOKHTAR AHMAD BAJUNID