We often learn a language to connect with people abroad, to have better travel experiences, or to communicate better with our co-workers as part of an international company.
But there are good reasons to learn a language even if you’re not an intrepid explorer or an international businessperson. In fact, there are many reasons to learn a language for use at home.
Take the U.S. for instance. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard a diatribe along the lines of, “This is America! Speak English!” But according to stats, fewer and fewer Americans speak English as their native language. In 2016, the foreign-born population was about 13.5%, and in 2017 it was up to 13.7%. And that even doesn’t include the American-born population who speak another language besides English.
Before English became the Lingua Franca, what makes up the present-day United States was home to hundreds of languages. And English can’t even claim a place as the first European language to be spoken on American soil! Spanish gets that credit. Not to mention the fact that scholars estimate about 15 million speakers throughout the Western Hemisphere used more than 2,000 languages before colonization.
But we’re not just talking about the Americas. Europe and other continents have their fair share of languages that are experiencing pressure from official languages and have few (if any) remaining native speakers. For example, there’s:
France: Breton, Occitan, Corsican, and Gallo
Germany: Low Rhenish, Limburgish, Alemannic, Bavarian, Sorbian, and Frisian
Italy: Lombard, Piedmontese, Sardinian, and Sicilian
Australia: Wiradjuri, Noongar, Wajarri, Upper Arrernte, and Warlpiri
Japan: Ryukyuan, Ainu, Orok, and Nivkh
In the Americas, we can’t forget languages like Blackfoot, Cherokee, Iroquoian, Hopi, Nahuatl, Quechua, Guaraní, Navajo, Inupiaq, Cree, and Hawaiian.
In addition to indigenous languages, there are other languages spoken alongside English — minority languages. In the U.S., these are languages like French, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, and Spanish — all of which have over one million speakers. In fact, you can probably find a community of speakers for almost any language somewhere in the U.S., especially if you live in or near a major city.
By learning one of the languages spoken in your community, you can build relationships, experiences, and opportunities that wouldn’t be available to you otherwise.
Rather than invite you to learn a foreign language, we invite you to learn a local language. Whether it’s a majority, minority, or indigenous language, learning a new language offers you the chance to connect with people, not just around the world, but at home, too.
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